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Bartolomeo aims to attract new users to ISS
Bartolomeo. © ESA

Bartolomeo aims to attract new users to ISS

Europe’s Columbus laboratory is making room on the outside for a new platform designed to offer affordable, quick and easy access to space.

A decade after its launch, Europe’s Columbus laboratory is making room on the outside for a new platform, called Bartolomeo, offering affordable, quick and easy access to space.

Airbus and the European Space Agency (ESA) — who have been working on the project since mid-2016 — signed a commercial partnership on 7th February that will make Bartolomeo a reality next year. While Airbus is funding the development and promoting the new platform, ESA will support the launch, installation and operations.

This is the first time that a European commercial partnership is offering the opportunity to carry out science and demonstrate technology outside the Station. Bartolomeo is aiming to attract new European users to the Station, including a community of start-ups and space entrepreneurs. The partners hope that, as companies piggyback off existing Station resources to reduce cost, new commercial opportunities will arise.

The Bartolomeo All-in-one Mission Service will provide end-to-end access for external payloads on the Station 400km above Earth. Alongside an unobstructed view of Earth, users will enjoy direct control of the experiments from the ground and the possibility of retrieving samples.

The platform, named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus, will be mounted on the forward side of Columbus. Users will enjoy a data downlink capacity of 10 Gbit/s – enough to download a high-definition movie within 30 seconds. The formula for payload size is flexible. Users can opt for as little as 5kg by sharing the ride with other experiments, or have an entire slot of up to 450kg at their disposal.

Bartolomeo offers 11 slots, and the waiting time from the moment a contract is signed and the ‘go for flight’ is one to two years – much shorter than the standard timeframe for experiments. The rental agreement in space is for a minimum of one year.

Bartolomeo is set for launch in 2019 on a SpaceX Dragon cargo ferry.

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