The Microgravity User Support Center (MUSC) in Cologne is a co-operative facility of two scientific institutes, Aerospace Medicine, Materials Science and Space Operations and Astronaut Training. MUSC operates major equipment for the scientific use of space in the disciplines of materials science, biological and extraterrestrial sciences and technology. The center qualifies space experiments for their certification of flight readiness, supports operation during flight with the necessary infrastructure (e.g. with on ground science reference models of flight units, and ground support computing systems) and after each successful mission makes archived data accessible for users throughout Europe. In parallel, future mission targets are being investigated and development of new experimental and measurement processes takes place. Concerning data system development, user-oriented command, data acquisition and archiving systems for space experiments are provided.
MUSC runs two control centers, the ISS Control Center for facility operations on board the International Space Station (ISS) and the MASCOT Control Center (MCC).
The International Space Station (ISS) is the world’s largest research facility for experiments under microgravity conditions. The ground infrastructure required for the scientific utilization of ISS facilities is distributed over various European User Support and Operations Centers (USOCs). With emphasis on the disciplines of biological sciences and materials physics, the MUSC in Cologne implemented the German USOC for support of research under microgravity conditions on board the ISS. Besides this, pilot experiments are tested on short-term microgravity missions in order to develop new facility concepts.
Developed by DLR and the French space agency CNES, the asteroid lander MASCOT is currently en route to the asteroid Ryugu (1999 JU3). The Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout began its journey through space on board the Japanese orbiter Hayabusa2 on 3 December 2014. It will reach its destination in summer 2018. While the Hayabusa2 orbiter is programmed to fly close to the asteroid and ‘inhale’ material for transport back to Earth, MASCOT itself will touch down on Ryugu and conduct measurements at various points on the surface of an asteroid for the first time in history. The four instruments fitted on board are designed to analyse the mineralogical and geological composition of the asteroid's surface and to measure its surface temperature and magnetic field. Once it has deployed all instruments, MASCOT will activate its swing arm to hop several metres to the next site.