The European Space Agency's Columbus Orbital Facility is a pressurized, multipurpose laboratory that is slated for addition to the International Space Station during Phase III of ISS construction.
The 11-ton, $1.4 billion lab -- the Agency's major contribution to the ISS -- will be delivered by the Space Shuttle to a berthing site on Node 2, adjacent to the U.S. Laboratory and directly across from the Japanese Experiment Module.
The Facility will accommodate ten racks, five of them for European Space Agency use, the other five for NASA. It will be used primarily for research and experimentation in microgravity conditions for:
- Microgravity Sciences, to study processes that are obscured by gravity on Earth, and to test physical theories at levels of accuracy that are impossible on Earth -- again, due to the planet's gravity.
- Fluid Physics, to learn the behavior and properties of fluids in microgravity and develop techniques to improve oil spill recovery techniques, tracking of ground water contaminants, optical lens fabrication and many other processes.
- Life Sciences, to learn how flora and fauna growth and disease occur in microgravity and to convert what is learned into strategies for dealing with disease and disability on Earth.
DaimlerBenz Aerospace of Bremen, Germany is the development prime contractor under an approximately $930 million contract. Alenia Spazio of Turin, Italy is the prime contractor for the primary Columbus structure and other critical elements under contracts valued at approximately $700 million.