Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space celebrates Columbus first anniversary as part of the International Space Station

Bremen, 11 February 2009 - The European science laboratory Columbus is celebrating its first anniversary. It has been an integrated part of the International Space Station for a whole year now. Airbus Defence and Space, Europe's leading space company, developed and built Columbus as prime contractor to the European Space Agency (ESA).

  • Airbus Defence and Space underlines its competence in manned space travel
  • Airbus Defence and Space trained the astronauts on how to use Columbus
  • Airbus Defence and Space responsible for all industrial operations and exploitation activities on the European part of the International Space Station


“Our success with Columbus is not only a great testament to the whole Airbus Defence and Space team but also cements our reputation as a true global player in the field of human space travel,” said Helmut Luttmann, Airbus Defence and Space's head of ISS operation and exploitation, in Bremen.

Columbus is another demonstration of Airbus Defence and Space's expertise in manned space travel. Columbus was the first space laboratory to be equipped on the ground enabling scientific work to begin immediately after docking with the ISS.

The Columbus space laboratory is Europe's main contribution to the International Space Station ISS. The laboratory made its journey to the ISS on space shuttle "Atlantis", launched from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on 7 February 2008.

In the Columbus laboratory, scientists can carry out experiments across a variety of disciplines (biotechnology, medicine, material sciences, fluid sciences, human sciences) and experiments in applied technology projects that would not possible in Earth's gravity. One of the first experiments carried out in the Biolab was WAICO (Waving and Coiling of Arabidopsis Roots), which studies plant growth under zero-gravity conditions. It has already delivered some interesting preliminary results on gravity detection and growth behaviour in response to predefined gravity stimuli.

"The astronauts are trained by Airbus Defence and Space instructors at the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne. The technical training of the astronauts who are to work in the Columbus module, and the handling of the ATV at the space station, are part and parcel of the contract," said Luttmann. "In principle, Airbus Defence and Space is involved in every mission to the Space Station."

The industrial operation and exploitation of the International Space Station is the result of the €2.6 billion exploitation contract between ESA and Airbus Defence and Space. Set to run until 2013, the contract covers both the production of future ATV transport vehicles and the preparation of these missions. It includes mission control and the provision of supplies to all European elements of the ISS. The contract also regulates the activities of the Columbus Control Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, which is operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on behalf of Airbus Defence and Space.

 Airbus Defence and Space’s aerospace engineers spent 10 years working on the Columbus space station module, which weighs nearly 13 metric tons. Ten European countries are involved in the Columbus project. The major partners involved were Germany (51 percent), Italy (23 percent) and France (18 percent). USA and Canada also participated. Columbus cost €880 million and is designed for an operational life of ten years at least.


The conceptual design of the Columbus module draws on the experience gained by Airbus Defence and Space in the development and construction of the Spacelab space laboratory begun in the late 1970s.

"After successfully completing the Columbus and ATV development programmes, we are now focusing on the operation and exploitation of the International Space Station," Luttmann concluded.


Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2007, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.5 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, 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 2007, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.


Press  contacts: 

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

           Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space F)                                       Tel.:   +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32 

Kirsten Leung (Airbus Defence and Space Germany)                                  Tel.:  +49 (0) 421 539 53 26 

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space Spain)                                 Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41

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