30.10.2015

OHB-research laboratory investigates complex plasmas‎

First scientific campaign completed on board space station ISS

International Space Station/Munich, October 30th, 2015. The joint ESA–ROSCOSMOS Experiment Plasma Kristall-4 on-board the ISS completed its first scientific experiment campaign earlier today. Its objective is to advance the research of complex plasmas in weightlessness. OHB System AG is responsible, under a contract to ESA, for all system tasks of this permanent research laboratory.

Plasma Kristall-4 is the third plasma research laboratory by OHB System aboard ISS. It occupies almost 60% of the EPM Rack (European Physiology Module), which was also developed by OHB System. EPM is equipped with the necessary communication interfaces and is responsible for power supply and cooling of the research laboratory. „Plasma Kristall-4 was designed to examine the liquid phase of complex plasmas. For example, scientists can examine flow properties in micro particle clouds”, explains Dr. Roland Graue, Head of OHB’s Human Spaceflight, Microgravity & Robotics directorate. Plasma Kristall-4 is foreseen for quarterly one-week scientific experiment campaigns in the European Columbus module over a 4-year period. The experiment is supervised by the ground control center CADMOS in Toulouse; always in cooperation with a cosmonaut who has completed the necessary training prior to launch. “On-site at CADMOS, OHB employees from the Plasma Kristall-4 and EPM teams and scientists support the research operation in the Columbus module and ensure smooth operation”, Dr. Graue continues.

Plasma – the stuff that stars are made of

Research on plasma crystals has been conducted on board the ISS since 2001. Plasma is the fourth state of matter after the solid, liquid and gaseous state. Plasmas are charged, i.e. electrically conductive gases, as in fluorescent lamps or plasma TVs. In space, more than 99 percent of visible material, like stars and clouds of gas, is made up of this fourth state of matter. Plasma Kristall-4 investigates complex plasmas, i.e. plasmas comprising ions, electrons, neutral gas and micro particles. Electrostatic interaction by strongly negative charged micro particles displays a wide range of phenomena which are of interest to fundamental research scientists.

Milestones

The first OHB plasma research laboratory, PKE-Nefedov, ushered in scientific research in the Russian segment of the then still “young” ISS in 2001. Plasma Kristall-4 is also setting a milestone since it is the first international ESA-ROSCOSMOS experiment in the European Columbus module operated by Russian cosmonauts. Oleg Kononenko supports the first scientific campaign of Plasma Kristall-4. In 2012, Kononenko already investigated plasma crystals in the Russian segment of the ISS, operating the second OHB plasma research laboratory, PK-3 Plus.

Plasma Kristall-4 partners

OHB System AG was directly commissioned by ESA and closely collaborates with the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), the “Complex Plasma Research Group” at DLR evolving from the MPE as well as scientists at the JIHT (Joint Institute for High Temperatures) in Moscow. The Russian space agency ROSCOSMOS assumed transport to the ISS and also provides crew time and handles the transfer of experiment data to Earth.

ISS030-E-016793: Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko installs PK-3 Plus on board ISS (2011/12); ‎credit: NASA
ISS030-E-016793: Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko installs PK-3 Plus on board ISS (2011/12); ‎credit: NASA
Components of the Plasma Kristall-4 laboratory prior to transportation to the International Space ‎Station: experiment unit, rack drawers for electricity supplies, communications and data collec-‎tion (all images OHB System AG)‎
Components of the Plasma Kristall-4 laboratory prior to transportation to the International Space ‎Station: experiment unit, rack drawers for electricity supplies, communications and data collec-‎tion (all images OHB System AG)‎

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Email: guenther.hoerbst@ohb.de

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