The European Space Agency has yet to agree with NASA on the assignment of an ESA mission specialist for the Space Shuttle mission that will deliver Europe’s Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station next year.

Scheduled for launch on STS 122/Discovery, the primary structure of Columbus was built by Alenia Spazio in Turin, Italy, delivered to prime contractor EADS Space Transportation in September 2001 for equipping and testing, and finally handed over to NASA in June this year. Its launch date was delayed following the loss of the Columbia orbiter during re-entry in February 2003.

“We are pushing for [an ESA mission specialist for the Columbus launch] – it has a certain logic,” says ESA’s manned spaceflight, microgravity and exploration director Daniel Sacotte. The laboratory will mainly be used by Russian and US astronauts. With the delivery of Columbus, ESA becomes a co-owner of the ISS, enabling it to send an astronaut for a six-month mission once every year to 18 months.

ISS partners Canada and Japan also have astronaut mission rights. Because NASA provides so much of the services to Columbus, the US agency has 49% of the utilisation rights for the laboratory.

Source: Flight International