Experiments on ISS
Although Europe's Columbus laboratory is not yet in orbit, European experiments are already being performed aboard the International Space Station, and more are in preparation. European Soyuz Taxi Flights provide a continuing and significant number of experiment opportunities, and agreements with NASA are important, in particular, for experiments in human physiology. Beyond these, the experiments for the increments after Columbus is attached to the ISS are being prepared. This article describes the selection and planning process for the various opportunities, the facilities used and the planned experiments per discipline.
Figure 1: An artist's impression of Columbus, the European laboratory on the International Space Station (c) ESA / D.Ducros.
Selection and Planning:
ESA publishes Announcements of Opportunities (AOs) in life and physical sciences at regular intervals, plus AOs for science, Earth observation and technology experiments to use the external platforms on Columbus. All proposals are "peer reviewed" by external experts using a very thorough procedure. In many cases, this is now done in an international setting, involving proposals from all ISS Partners. At this stage, an initial technical assessment is also made of facility and resource requirements in order to identify possible show-stoppers. On average, some 15-20% of all proposals survive this review process. For the endorsed projects, the next step is a definition phase. This is a more detailed accommodation study, which identifies the most appropriate experiment facility, and the hardware and resource requirements for each experiment. Following this, if needed, the definition and development of experiment-specific equipment is carried out. For example, this can be the development of standalone equipment for a Soyuz flight, an insert for one of the Columbus facilities or dedicated items for human physiology experiments. Depending on the complexity and the overall mission schedule, this phase can take between 6 months and 3 years. Roughly 3 years before flight, the experiment will be manifested for a specific ISS increment. From that moment on, it appears in the overall ISS experiment planning, which is formally baselined by NASA with input from ESA and other Partners.
Read more about the experiments aboard ISS at:Latest News
http://www.dlr.de/iss/ (currently in German)
http://www.go.dlr.de/musc/expose/ (currently in German)