Columbus on its way to Kennedy Space Center Columbus is a multi-purpose laboratory for multi-disciplinary research into weightlessness. It is 6.9 metres long with a diameter of 4.5 metres. It is equipped for material and life sciences research, fluid research and the development of new technologies. Its designers also hope that it will one day be used for industrial and commercial purposes. This lab has become the main working area for European astronauts. There are platforms on the outer wall of the laboratory for experiments that will be exposed to outer space. The laboratory is operated by the European Columbus control centre within the German aerospace control centre of the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen.
As the main contractor for Columbus, EADS Space Transportation in Bremen heads a consortium of 41 companies from 14 countries that is responsible for development, production, integration and testing. The fixed price contract for the development of Columbus was signed in March 1996. The total costs of the module, including test equipment, amount to €880 million. Of this, about €450 million was borne by German industry.
European space laboratory Columbus was transported to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) by a Beluga Airbus on 28th May 2006 and was launched to the ISS in February 2008. All the technical improvements and system tests necessitated by the delayed construction were completed successfully and the internal payloads integrated.
In addition German contributions to the construction of technically demanding laboratory equipment must be mentioned, such as the MELFI sample freezing equipment which can freeze down to - 80° Celsius or the scientific sample storage device, the Micro Gravity Science Glovebox (MSG), developed by the satellite manufacturer, EADS Astrium. In addition Germany was responsible for the development and production of the ISS data management system (DMS-R) which was equipped with error-tolerant computers by EADS and which performs the ISS check from the Russian service module. The DMS-R was installed on the ISS as early as 2000 and has been working reliably since 2001.
Germany has also been involved with control components for the European ISS robot arm (ERA) and the important connection nodes 2 & 3. Node 2 was delivered to NASA as early as 2003.