German space community mourning the deaths of the seven Columbia crew members
Two OHB-System space experiments affected
The tragic loss of US space shuttle Columbia on February 1, in which all seven crew members were killed, has come as a deep shock to the German space research community and the German space industry.
Two experiments which OHB-System had developed and built for the German Space Agency (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA) were also on board the Columbia. Thus, the Space Shuttle had been carrying the C.E.B.A.S. research aquarium designed to examine the effects of weightlessness on fish, snails and plants. The Columbia flight marked the third space trip for the research laboratory developed for DLR. Following the successful completion of the experiments in space, this tragedy means that the German scientists involved will now not be able to perform any ground-based evaluation of the results. These biological experiments, which had met with great success in the past, will be resumed in due course.
The second OHB experiment on board the Columbia was COM2PLEX, which examined innovative cooling methods for future satellite technology. Conducted on behalf of ESA and DLR, this project was completed during the trip, with measurements transmitted to earth on a continuous basis. OHB-System has not sustained any economic loss as a result of the Columbia tragedy as all the space-related risks were retained by the space agencies commissioning the projects.
As the US has reaffirmed its commitment to continuing manned space travel with the Space Shuttle fleet, there is not likely to be any fundamental obstacles to the construction and deployment of the ISS International Space Station. However, the time needed to implement any modifications which may be necessary once the cause of the accident has been ascertained as well as the fact that the Space Shuttle fleet has now been reduced to three vehicles will very likely lead to delays in the construction schedule for the ISS.
European development and construction orders for ISS equipment and facilities will be largely unaffected on account of the advanced state of completion. However, operation and deployment business may be impacted or delayed.
The most important task facing German scientists and OHB employees over the next few days and weeks, some of whom are still based at the Kennedy Space Center in the United States, will be to come to terms with the loss of the Columbia crew and to comfort the victims' families, friends and colleagues at NASA.