Airbus Defence and Space

Manned Space Missions Press releases

ATV: "Mini" Earth travels to the International Space Station

• "Johannes Kepler" to bring cargo and science experiments to the ISS

• Airbus Defence and Space-built container for ESA to investigate flow patterns in the Earth's mantle

Friedrichshafen, February 14, 2011 – Tomorrow, Tuesday 15  February, a "Mini" Earth is scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) to gain a better understanding of the processes in the Earth's mantle, which lead to volcanism, plate tectonics and also to earthquakes. The scientific experiment Geoflow II was built by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of the European Space Agency.

In contrast to Geoflow I that studied flows in the Earth´s Core and its composition, the aim now is to study flow patterns in the Earth’s mantle.

Photo: Airbus Defence and Space

© Airbus Defence and Space

Scientists at the University of Cottbus are simulating a kind of "Mini" Earth installed in an experiment container the size of a shoe box. Following its first ISS mission in 2008, Geoflow’s flight model was modified by Airbus Defence and Space in 2009 and 2010 in order to enable experiments with a different scientific focus to be carried out.

Scientists hope the experiments on the ISS will enable them to improve numerical calculation methods. They will be studying a fluid that is contained between an inner and an outer sphere, each rotating at the same speed and kept at a different temperature. Gravity will be simulated by applying a high voltage electric field, and a camera will photograph the fluid's circulation patterns. All this can only function if the artificial force fields are not distorted by a real gravitational field, which is why the experiment must be carried out under zero-gravity conditions - in other words, in space.

Photo: NASA


Geoflow II will be launched into space on board the space transporter, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) 2. The Airbus Defence and Space-built ATV will carry the heaviest payload (20.1 tons) ever launched by the European Ariane 5 rocket. 


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2009, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.8 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and theNetherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and SpaceSatellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive end-to-end value-added solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geoinformation and navigation services worldwide.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119,000.


Press Contacts: 

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

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space GB)                                                      Tel.: +44 (0) 1438 778180

Mathias Pikelj (Airbus Defence and Space DE)                                                      Tel.: +49 (0) 7545 8 9123

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