Atlantis readies for Columbus mission

Jul 13, 2007
Atlantis readies for Columbus mission
An artist's impression of Columbus, a cutaway view, the European laboratory module of the International Space Station. Credits: ESA - D.Ducros

More than 500 years ago, the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the New World and the discoveries he made caused quite a stir throughout Europe. Today, excitement is building on both sides of the Atlantic as the long-awaited launch of ESA’s Columbus space laboratory grows closer, as NASA starts processing Shuttle Atlantis in preparation for the mission.

Columbus was flown to Florida on 30 May 2006. Earlier this year, it was removed from temporary storage, and the 12.8 tonne International Space Station (ISS) module is now fully outfitted with its experiment racks and orbital hardware.

At the moment, engineers are installing the trunnions that will secure the 4.5 metre diameter aluminium cylinder in the Shuttle payload bay. The next step is to mount the panels that will protect the lab from potentially damaging micrometeorite impacts.

After a summer break, the Columbus hatch will be reopened at the beginning of October, when it will undergo final preparations for flight, including leak checks on the water cooling system, a pressurisation check and the switching on of electrical systems. Once the seals are in position on the module’s docking mechanism, it will be placed inside a canister for transport to the launch pad.

"The launch of Columbus will be a major landmark in European space exploration," said Bernardo Patti, Columbus Project Manager. "Columbus was originally scheduled for launch in 2002, but delays in the construction of the ISS and the tragic loss of Shuttle Columbia have put back the mission five years.

"Once Columbus is operational, we will have a permanent presence on the Station. We will own our own real estate. By providing the Automated Transfer Vehicle and Columbus, ESA will be able to meet its scientific objectives as a full partner, sharing resources with other ISS participants rather than simply purchasing them."

Columbus will not be the only representative of ESA on the STS-122 Shuttle flight. The crew of seven will include ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Léopold Eyharts. Schlegel will play a key role in two spacewalks during which he will help to install and power up Columbus and then position two scientific payloads on the module’s exterior. While Léopold Eyharts will perform a large part of the activation and initial commissioning activities.

After the Shuttle heads for home, Eyharts and the other members of the resident ISS crew will complete the commissioning of the laboratory and conduct its first scientific experiments.

Source: European Space Agency

Explore further: Start of dwarf planet mission delayed after small mix-up

Related Stories

Google's 1Q reassures investors despite earnings miss

55 minutes ago

Google is still flexing its moneymaking muscle even as a technological upheaval nibbles at its dominance in Internet search and European antitrust regulators question some of the company's practices.

Classroom acoustics for architects

1 hour ago

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) has published a free online booklet for architects to aid in the application of ANSI/ASA S12.60-2010/Part 1-American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, ...

Recommended for you

Can sound help us detect 'earthquakes' on Venus?

Apr 23, 2015

Detecting an "earthquake" on Venus would seem to be an impossible task. The planet's surface is a hostile zone of crushing pressure and scorching temperatures—about 874 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead—that ...

Titan's atmosphere useful in study of hazy exoplanets

Apr 23, 2015

With more than a thousand confirmed planets outside of our solar system, astronomers are attempting to identify the atmospheres of these distant bodies to determine if they could possibly host life.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.