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Discovery lifts Astrium facilities into space


Cape Canaveral. – Today, the space shuttle Discovery was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida (USA). At 5:59 a.m. CEST (23:59 m. local time) Discovery (Mission STS-128) was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre and set course for the International Space Station (ISS). The shuttle carries three new experiment facilities which have been developed under the industrial leadership of the European space company Astrium.

* Space Shuttle successfully launched this morning and on its way to the ISS

* Extension of scientific experiments with the MSL and Declic facilities

* Preservation of scientific research in the special freezer Melfi

With the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) and the Declic (fluid physics) facility, the ISS crew members will be able to further extend their scientific experiments and, in particular, investigate basic processes in the production of new alloys and semiconductors, as well as new methods for waste water treatment.

For the cold storage of scientific research, Discovery is also transporting a second Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer - called Melfi-2 - to the ISS. Melfi-1 has been on board the ISS since 2006. The facilities are accommodated in the mobile Leonardo logistics module (MPLM) and the astronauts will bring them on board the ISS on the fifth day of the mission.

The Materials Science Laboratory (MSL)

The MSL facility was developed and built on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) by a consortium under the management of Astrium.

The MSL will allow the astronauts to study the behaviour of various materials, such as metal, glass, crystals and ceramics under space conditions. For this purpose, samples can be melted and solidified in different furnace inserts under accurately controlled conditions. The major aim of the research is the subsequent production of materials on the Earth at an industrial scale with improved characteristics or at lower costs.

Fluid physics with Declic

Declic (Dispositif d’Etude de la Croissance et des Liquides Critiques) is a device for the study of liquids at the critical point, i.e. a certain temperature and pressure range describing the condition of a material between a gas and a liquid state. From these experiments the scientists hope to obtain new information for metallic alloys used in the space industry and the storage of rocket and satellite fuel, as well as improvements in waste water treatment. In addition, Declic shall also provide insights for manned spaceflight with respect to the treatment of human, plant or other organic waste materials.

The Declic research facility was developed and built by Astrium for the French space agency CNES.

Really cool - The Minus Eighty Degree Freezer Melfi

Astrium has developed and built three units of the “Minus 80° Celsius Laboratory Freezer Melfi” for ESA. In July 2006, the first unit was flown to the ISS on the STS-121 mission. Since then Melfi-1 has successfully operated without fault, freezing and preserving the biological and medical samples for science. After their return to Earth, human, animal and plant biological samples will be further analysed by scientists.

The Astrium-developed “freezer fleet” Melfi consists of three units. The third unit is still at Astrium in Friedrichshafen undergoing final integration and test activities before its delivery to the Kennedy Space Centre in September. There, further tests and the launch preparations will be conducted with the support of Astrium engineers. Melfi-3 is planned to reach the ISS with one of the last shuttle flights in mid-2010.


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