HOUSTON — Europe’s new lab at the international space station (ISS) is in fine shape, according to the astronauts that delivered the new module.
The joint astronaut crews of the station and NASA’s shuttle Atlantis said the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus lab was fully activated late Feb. 13 and performing well.
ESA’s largest contribution to the $100 billion space station, is a
�long pressurized cylinder capable of carrying experiments on its outer hull and up to 16 racks of science and hardware inside its
�wide interior. A new ESA control center outside Munich, Germany, is overseeing the 10-ton laboratory 24 hours a day.
In a series of spacewalks, astronauts installed Columbus to the space station, as well as performed other necessary construction tasks.
The joint station and shuttle crew attached the ESA-built laboratory to the ISS Feb. 11. During their Feb. 13 spacewalk, German astronaut Hans Schlegel and U.S. astronaut Rex Walheim swapped out a cooling system tank outside the ISS. It was the first spacewalk for Schlegel since an illness kept him from an earlier excursion.
Schlegel and Walheim replaced a refrigerator-sized pressure tank during the nearly seven-hour maintenance job.
On Feb. 15,
attached two experiments to the 1.4 billion euro ($2 billion) module’s exterior Jan. 15
as their crewmates continued to move interior racks and other hardware from launch positions into their final orbital flight configuration.
Atlantis’ STS-122 crew is in the middle of a 13-day mission to deliver Columbus and French astronaut Leopold Eyharts to the station. The shuttle is slated to undock Feb. 18 and land back on Earth Feb. 20
Aside from early cooling system issues and a computer command software glitch, which flight controllers fixed Feb. 13
, Columbus’ activation has gone smoothly, mission managers said.
The lab’s activation was delayed due to that glitch, which prevented commands from the ESA’s control center to reach computers aboard Columbus by way of the station’s U.S. command system.
Flight controllers cleared old commands in the computer system and restored communications between the operations center and Columbus. Engineers worked through the night to fix the glitch, which delayed Columbus’ activation by less than 24 hours, said Sally Davis, NASA’s lead ISS flight director for Atlantis’ mission.