- ATV-4 shuttle will deliver Astrium’s experiment unit to the ISS
- 44 liquidity experiments on one conveyor belt
- ESA to investigate emulsions in weightlessness conditions
When the European space transporter ATV-4 sets off at the start of June on its mission to space, it will have ‘scientific supplies’ on board, as well as numerous provisions for the ISS (International Space Station). One of the experiments is FASES (Fundamental and Applied Studies in Emulsions Stability) that has been developed and built for ESA (European Space Agency) by Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company. The goal of FASES is to investigate the behaviour of emulsions in weightlessness. Emulsions play a significant role in many fields of industry, for example in food production, the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries and also the oil industry. FASES will be operated in the Fluid Science Laboratory in the European Columbus Module.
Similar to the way in which meals pass by diners in a sushi bar, the ‘conveyor belt’ moves the experimental cells, which each contain one millilitre, onto two measuring stations. The route through the interior of the device is clearly determined and recorded. Once they have arrived at both diagnostic instruments, the actual experiments can begin. The Thermal Conditioning Unit (TCU) with corresponding microscope is responsible for the transparent sample group, while the non-transparent sample types are analysed in the Differential Scanning Calorimeter (DSC) in the determined test procedures.
Since some of the liquid mixtures only have a limited shelf life of less than two months, the timeframe for filling the sample containers and placing them into the ATV-4 must be adhered to strictly. FASES is therefore a so-called ‘late cargo’, i.e. it belongs to the last pieces of cargo that go on board ‘Albert Einstein’.
44 miniscule sample containers
Astrium is the main contractor for ESA and is responsible for the development, integration, testing and certification of FASES Hardware. The outwardly unimposing FASES box is, however, 35 kilograms in weight and measures only 40x28x27cm, yet contains 44 small sample containers filled with liquid, two diagnostic units and one conveyor.
Two different types of experimental cells have been developed for FASES, which are filled with precisely-defined mixtures of ultra-pure water, paraffin and hexane that differ in terms of their composition and concentration. The researchers then separate them into transparent (ITEM) and non-transparent (EMPI) emulsions.
FASES will be unloaded by the ISS crew shortly after the ATV-4 has docked to the International Space Station. The aim is to process these shelf-life-limited cells within a few days in the Columbus Fluid Physics Laboratory after their arrival at the ISS. The further experiments are then to be carried out in a time period of 6 to 8 months. During this time, the data will be downlinked and distributed to the scientists for analysis.
Astrium and the ATV
Astrium is, on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) also responsible for the development and construction of the ATV. The production of the ATV shuttles as well as mission preparation and operational support are constituents of the exploitation contract that comprises the operation and logistics of the European sections of the ISS. With ‘Albert Einstein’, the fourth transporter is now on its way to the ISS. The fifth shuttle – ‘Georges Lemaître’ - (scheduled for launch in mid-2014) is currently undergoing its first tests as a complete unit for flightworthiness and functionality.
Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. It is the only global company that covers the full range of civil and defence space systems, equipment and services.
In 2012, Astrium had a turnover over €5.8 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide.
Its three business units are: Astrium Space Transportation, the European prime contractor for launchers, orbital systems and space exploration; Astrium Satellites, a leading provider of satellite system solutions, including spacecraft, ground segments, payloads and equipments; Astrium Services, the Space services partner for critical missions, providing comprehensive fixed and mobile solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.
Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2012, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of €56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.