UK-built technology that will revolutionise the science astronauts carry out on the International Space Station is due to launch.
Called COLKa for ‘Columbus Ka-band Terminal’, the system will allow astronauts and researchers to benefit from a direct link with Europe at home broadband speeds, relaying data from experiments on the ISS back to Earth almost instantaneously.
The fridge-sized device is due to launch aboard a Cygnus supply ship from Wallops Island, Virginia just before 9pm UK time on Friday. Two astronauts will carry out a spacewalk later this year to mount it to the outside of the Columbus module on the ISS.
Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said: “This is the first major industrial contribution from the UK to the ISS and it will revolutionise the ability of scientists in the UK and Europe to access the results of their experiments. This is yet another example of the UK economy benefiting, through investment, jobs and new skills, from our continued collaboration with the European Space Agency.”
The data will be transmitted to a ground station at Harwell, Oxfordshire, near ESA’s European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications, and from there it will be transferred to the Columbus Control Centre and user centres across Europe.