On 8 September 2000 ESA inaugurated a Virtual Campus for the International Space Station (ISS). This exciting new development will allow present and future users of the ISS in Europe to be kept informed on all the new developments taking place, share knowledge and find new research partners.
The European Virtual Campus for the International Space Station (ISS) was inaugurated in September at the ISS User Information Centre in Noordwijk in the Netherlands. Designed and constructed by technical and scientific teams from agencies and industries in the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, as well as 10 Member States of the European Space Agency, the ISS is the largest space science and technology venture ever undertaken.
The ISS provides new and exciting opportunities and advantages that are unmatched in quality and quantity by any space system to date. Both the pressurised and non-pressurised laboratories of the station will be open to European scientific researchers, development engineers and commercial service providers. The Virtual Campus will attract new users to the ISS and ensure that they are able to fully benefit from the many unique services that the ISS will provide.
Some of the many facilities of the Virtual Campus
- Through the Internet, and the television production and transmission facilities of the ISS User Information Centre, the Virtual Campus will be able to reach a wide audience to publicise the important research conducted on the ISS, as well as on the spacecraft and ground facilities whose work will complement that of the space station. This will include research using the gravity-free environment of the station and research in other scientific and engineering disciplines able to benefit from the role of the ISS as a technology testbed and demonstrator, and a platform for new services in and from space.
- The Virtual Campus will play an important role in building up joint research teams by providing information on planned research and applications. This is already happening for the microgravity applications programme where ESA has set up Topical Teams to allow researchers from academia to team up with more application-oriented researchers from industrial laboratories on topics of common interest which may have a commercial perspective.
- Regular lectures will be held on the scientific, technological and application-oriented aspects of space station utilisation and virtual institutes will be set up within the Campus for the many scientific disciplines able to benefit from the ISS’s research facilities. The first candidates are a Virtual Institute for Health Care and a Virtual Institute for Exobiology.
- ESA will exploit the Virtual Campus to benefit scientists and industry by using it to publicise announcements on research opportunities available in the ISS and other experimental facilities, both in space and on the ground, whose work is connected to that of the space station. Those interested will be able to request information and advice on how to respond to these announcements and ensure that their experiments comply with ISS requirements.
- Visitors to the Virtual Campus can access an online database, which lists the particular expertise and experience of the research institutes, industrial companies, space agencies and government authorities involved in using the ISS. In addition they will be able to contact the engineers at ESA, other space agencies and in the European space industry who are responsible for developing the European research facilities on board the ISS. The programme managers in these organisations who are involved in the strategic planning for space station utilisation, and the attribution of resources and access rights, will also be available for consultation.
All this information is available without having to move from your computer and/or television. The sophisticated communications and information tools at ESA’s ISS User Information Centre will be used to transmit video and audio live broadcasts from the ISS using satellite television as well as Internet streaming videos. Users can take part in discussions via the Internet or telephone, and Internet chat sessions and interactive virtual reality tours of the ISS will also be part of the information programme.