The human presence in space is a key factor in enabling new technologies to be tested in microgravity. The International Space Station will become an advanced test-bed for technology development, and future human space exploration will drive technological research and development in many fields, from electrical power to life support, radiation and communications.
Some of the first ISS technology experiments will take place outside ESA’s Columbus laboratory on the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF). This system houses various technology experiments related to tribology (the study of friction, wear and lubrication related to the design of bearings and interactive surfaces), electrostatic charging/discharging phenomena, materials exposure and degradation, space debris and measurement of atomic oxygen flux. EuTEF also carries the EXPOSE facility for exposure of chemical, organic and biological specimens to the space environment.
Over the next decade, the ISS will be very important to ESA’s human spaceflight programme, as research is conducted onboard Columbus and other laboratories. Many significant scientific and technological breakthroughs may be expected, alongside a growth in commercial applications, spin-offs and technology transfers for application on Earth that will benefit society as a whole.