The Japanese cargo ferry HTV-9 moments before the Canadarm2 robotic arm (right) captured the spacecraft on 25 May 2020. Expedition 63 Commander and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy was at the robotics controls ready to command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-9 that was carrying over four tonnes of food, supplies and experiments to replenish the International Space Station crew.
It carried a fridge-size experiment facility developed by European industry through an ESA contract. The second iteration of the European Drawer Rack (EDR-2) is destined for the European Columbus laboratory and will provide even greater opportunities for science in space.
As the International Space Station enters its 20th year of operations, EDR-2 is part of a comprehensive upgrade of Columbus to offer flexible access to researchers. The rack was developed by an industrial team led by Thales Alenia Space Italy, based in Turin, Italy.
As the name implies, the facility offers room to support and operate experiments by supplying power, data communication, cooling, nitrogen and venting waste gasses.
The standard-sized racks that fit in all Space Station laboratories are the size of large fridges, and the Japanese HTV can bring several racks to the International Space Station. Once on board they become easier to manipulate for the astronauts in weightlessness.
The EDR-2 will not replace the existing European Drawer Rack but run in parallel, increasing the possibilities of research and technology demonstration in space. EDR-2 will benefit from other Columbus upgrades to modernise data management and improve data-rates for scientists operating their experiments from laboratories on Earth.
The EDR-2 and most of its experiments will be operated from CADMOS, the French User Support Operations Centre located in Toulouse, France. A full-scale Engineering Model of EDR-2 is available at CADMOS to test instruments and prepare experiment operations, as well as run control versions of experiments on Earth to compare with results from space.