With NASAs recent confirmation of the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on Thursday 7 February, ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel, of Germany, and Leopold Eyharts, of France, are set to deliver ESAs Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station.
Atlantis is now scheduled to lift off from launch pad 39-A at NASAs Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida at 14:45 Eastern Standard Time (EST) / 20:45 Central European Time (CET).
Docking with the ISS is scheduled for Saturday 9 February at 12:23 EST (18:23 CET). Landing is currently slated to take place at KSC on Monday 18 February at 09:57 EST (15:57 CET).
ESAs Columbus laboratory is the most important European mission to the ISS to date and the cornerstone of Europes contribution to this international endeavour. Once Columbus has been launched, attached to the Space Station and verified, ESA will become an active partner in the operations and utilisation of mankinds only permanent outpost in space.
Columbus will be transported into Earth orbit in the Shuttles cargo bay, pre-equipped with five internal racks. Two of its external experiment facilities will be stowed separately in the Shuttles cargo bay and attached to the outside of the laboratory module structure in orbit.
German ESA astronaut Hans Schlegel will play a key role in two of the three spacewalks or EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activity) scheduled for the mission. During the missions first EVA, Schlegel will help to install and power up the laboratory.
During his extended stay on the ISS, French ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts will play a key part in the installation, activation and in-orbit commissioning of Columbus and its experimental facilities.
Once in orbit, Columbus will be monitored from ESAs Columbus Control Centre located at DLRs German Space Operations Centre in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich.