Airbus Defence and Space

Manned Space Missions Press releases

Airbus Defence and Space heading European programme for International Space Station operations

Bremen, February 14th 2008 – The hatch opening of Columbus marks the beginning of its operation and Europe’s use of the International Space Station. Airbus Defence and Space is heading an industry consortium on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of the Exploitation Programme. The consortium is responsible for the operation and use of the ISS.

  • Europe to begin operating and using the Space Station
  • Exploitation Programme to run until at least 2013
  • Airbus Defence and Space is to prepare the European missions and supply the Space Station

The Exploitation Programme was initiated at the ESA Council of Ministers conference in Brussels in 1999. The 2.6 billion euro programme is set to run until 2013. The contract includes the preparation of European missions, producing and launching ATV units 2 to 5 and training European astronauts as an integral part of the ISS astronaut corps, as well as Mission Control and the supply of all European ISS elements.

As part of the Exploitation contract, Airbus Defence and Space provided technical training to the European astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts, to prepare them for their mission to install the new ISS module. Columbus will begin its mission with four internal payload bays and two experiments on the external payload platform. The space laboratory will be up and running shortly after it has docked to the ISS.

One of the first experiments to be conducted aboard the Columbus is called Geoflow, in the Fluid Science Laboratory. The aim of the Geoflow experiment is to investigate the Earth's interior. It will use zero-gravity conditions to create an artificial, centrally-directed, gravitational force within a fluid-filled spherical shell. This will allow scientists to replicate, on a smaller scale, the flow of the Earth’s liquid core to investigate several phenomena including the causes of earthquakes.

Once Columbus is attached to the Space Station and its systems are up and running, the Columbus Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen will take over control of the module from NASA. The Control Center belongs to the German Aerospace Center (DLR/Cologne).

Airbus Defence and Space has developed the Columbus space laboratory as prime contractor on behalf of ESA, over the last 10 years. A total of ten European countries have been involved in the Columbus project. In addition, Airbus Defence and Space has made a number of other important contributions to the Space Station, including: developing cargo facilities, software for the Columbus Ground System (CGS), the data management system (DMS-R) for the Russian service module, and the European robot arm (ERA). Various payloads have already been integrated in the racks of the Columbus laboratory: the Biolab, the European Physiology Module (EPM), the Fluid Science Lab (FSL) and the European Drawer Rack (EDR). Airbus Defence and Space Friedrichshafen plays an important role in the payloads for Columbus. The Protein Crystallisation and Diagnostic Facility (PCDF) and the Advanced Protein Crystallisation Facility (APCF), which both originate from Friedrichshafen, and the Cardiolab (CL) are also destined for the Columbus laboratory, but will not be integrated until docking with the International Space Station has taken place.The fresh air on board Columbus also "comes" from Lake Constance, the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLS) is developed and built in Friedrichshafen. The ECLS monitors the atmospheric pressure, ensures cabin air replacement, detects fire and regulates the air conditioning system that controls the cabin temperature and humidity.

The Columbus module cost 880 million euros, weighs almost 13 tonnes and is designed to operate for at least ten years.

Airbus Defence and Space also developed the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which is set to play a key role in supplying the International Space Station. The first ATV, christened "Jules Verne", is ready to be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from the European space port in Kourou (French Guyana) in the first quarter of 2008.

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2006, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.2 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, and Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2006, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.4 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116,000.


Media Contacts:

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK) Phone: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space GER) Phone: +49 (0) 7545 8 91 23

Francisco Lechon (Airbus Defence and Space ESP) Phone: +34 (0) 91 586 37 41

International Space StationISSColumbusDMS-R