Airbus Defence and Space

Columbus docked – Europe in space thanks to Airbus Defence and Space

The International Space Station (ISS) has been extended by a European element. The Columbus space laboratory, developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor on behalf of ESA, has been successfully docked to the ISS. Columbus was officially attached to the ISS at 22:44 CET on February 11, 2008.

The Columbus was lifted out of the payload bay with the help of a robot arm in an extravehicular operation, and docked to the station’s ‘Harmony’ node. ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who was at the controls of the Station's robotic arm for the final capture and initial berthing of Columbus, reported to Mission Control, "The European Columbus module is now part of the ISS."

For Airbus Defence and Space CEO François Auque, Columbus represents an important milestone in the ISS programme. “Airbus Defence and Space can be proud of having developed this fully fledged laboratory for the space station. No other company in Europe can offer such a high level of competence in the field of human spaceflight. Airbus Defence and Space is ideally equipped for future projects in this field.”

Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, commented on the successful manoeuvre: “It is impressive to see the precision with which this work was carried out, and how all the technical challenges were mastered. Now it is time to start research activities on the ISS, and at last reap the fruits of so many years of development work. The upcoming operational phase of the laboratory and the launch of the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Jules Verne will undoubtedly be just as challenging.”

"Airbus Defence and Space has shown what is possible with the right team spirit and the necessary technical expertise. The Columbus development underlines our ability to manage big international teams as a prime contractor," said Dr Michael Menking, Senior Vice President of Airbus Defence and Space Orbital Systems. "Today we have not only proved our reliability, with Columbus we are paving the way for numerous space applications and scientific research."

Hans Schlegel will return to Earth with the Atlantis shuttle crew. Léopold Eyharts will remain on the ISS for three months as an astronaut-scientist to continue the complex commissioning phase of the Columbus laboratory and carry out a number of experiments in it.

There will be no time for the Airbus Defence and Space teams to rest on their laurels, however, for the first ATV mission, Jules Verne, is currently being prepared in Kourou.