Airbus Defence and Space

Exploring the universe Press releases

“Columbus” celebrates two successful years in space

  • Europe's research laboratory for the ISS is operating perfectly
  • Airbus Defence and Space’s advanced technology meets all expectations in space, providing results like GEOFLOW and the Vessel ID technology
  • Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor for operation and utilisation of European contributions to the ISS


Bremen, 11 February 2010 The European Columbus research laboratory is celebrating its second successful year of space operations. As an integral part of the International Space Station (ISS), the laboratory has successfully hosted around 50 research experiments from a broad array of scientific disciplines over the last 24 months. Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading space company, developed and built Columbus as prime contractor to the European Space Agency (ESA).


“These two years of trouble-free operation, clearly demonstrate our team's excellent and efficient work – and illustrate how to achieve outstanding cooperation between scientific research and industry,” commented Helmut Luttmann, Head of Operations & Missions for the ISS at Airbus Defence and Space, marking Columbus’s second anniversary.


Columbus was the first space laboratory to be fully equipped on the ground, enabling scientific work to begin a few days after its launch on February 2008. One of the first experiments, carried out by Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus under the name “GEOFLOW”, was so successful that it is set to continue as “GEOFLOW 2” at the end of the year. GEOFLOW simulates convective flows in the Earth's liquid core and promises to provide more detailed insights into questions such as how earthquakes occur. GEOFLOW - developed by Airbus Defence and Space - was the first fluid experiment to be integrated and carried out in the Fluid Science Laboratory of Columbus under weightless conditions. GEOFLOW 2 is scheduled to make its journey to the ISS on board the unmanned cargo transporter “Johannes Kepler” (ATV 2) at the end of this year.


Within the scope of the Industrial Operator Team (IOT) contract, Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for ESA’s activities on board the ISS. Its tasks include mission preparation and mission operation, transport, integration and operation of the ground infrastructure.


On one of the latest experiments, Airbus Defence and Space therefore handled preparations to mount the Vessel ID technology experiment on Columbus’ exterior. Astronauts Michael Foreman and Randolph Bresnik subsequently installed the external unit last November. It features a VHF antenna to pick up signals, via a transponder, from all international vessels over 300 tons, all container ships over 500 tonnes and all passenger vessels. Their location can be pinpointed at all times.


On behalf of ESA, Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for the key European elements of the ISS. These include the European research laboratory Columbus and the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). Airbus Defence and Space is also the industrial prime contractor for operation and utilisation of European contributions to the ISS. Currently six Airbus Defence and Space-built multi- user experiment facilities are on board the ISS.


Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2008, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.3 billion and more than 15,000 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 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 2008, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €43.3 billion and employed a workforce of more than 118, 000.


Press contacts:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                      Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180

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

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                   Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971

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



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