ESA has united the best of Europe’s skills, expertise, and scientific and technical knowledge to contribute some of the Space Station’s most important elements. By the time the Space Station reaches completion around 2005, ESA-developed hardware will have been launched on almost half of the assembly missions and will be used in the American, Japanese and Russian laboratories as well as on Columbus – ESA’s own laboratory.
The key European elements are:
Columbus, a laboratory giving Europe the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of scientific and technological research from around 2004. Each year many experiments in materials science, medicine, biology and technology will be conducted, many eventually leading to benefits in processes that will enhance life on Earth.
Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), a transport vehicle launched by Europe’s Ariane 5 to carry propellant, food and other supplies. The first flight is scheduled for 2004 and an ATV will be launched by an Ariane 5 about every 12 months thereafter.
European Robotic Arm (ERA) which will be used for assembly of the Russian Science Power Platform. Operated from either inside or outside the Space Station, the 11.3 m long arm will be able to manoeuvre equipment weighing up to 8,000 kg. Amongst its first tasks will be installation of solar arrays.
Nodes 2 and 3 are cylindrical elements to be launched in 2004 and 2006. They will provide important on-orbit resources for connecting and operating other Space Station elements, as well as water processing and oxygen generation for the US segment and stowage for equipment racks.
Cupola, a pressurised observation and control zone for the crew to perform remote robot arm operations. It has six trapezoidal side windows and a circular top window, each protected by an external shutter. The ‘shirt sleeve’ observation post will also offer priceless psychological benefits to the crew as a window onto the outside world during extended stays in space. Its launch is planned for 2006.
Data Management System, the ‘brain’ of the Russian-built Zvezda module, which was launched in July 2000. DMS-R performs overall control of the Russian elements, as well as guidance and navigation for the Space Station.
Crew Return Vehicle, a joint project with NASA for the development of a spacecraft that will be built to serve as the Space Station’s ‘lifeboat’.