Spacehub Logistics Module on Space Shuttle


Prime contractor Dornier - Germany

Space Shuttle Columbia
Space Shuttle

The Space Shuttle Columbia, carrying the Life and Micro-gravity SpaceLab, was launched from Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 20th, 1996.

After logging a record breaking 16 days, 21 hours, 48 minutes and 40 seconds in space, aboard Columbia, the Life and Micro-gravity SpaceLab (LMS) module returned to Earth.

The BDPU (Bubble, Drop and Particulate Unit) facility, part of the LMS module, is the principle facility developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the study of fluid mechanics in a micro-gravity climate, where the effects of buoyancy are minimised. For the BDPU facility, Ferrari Space Division was requested, by Dornier Aerospace of Friedrichshafen, Germany and Laben of Milan, Italy, to design and manufacture a Test Container to verify in micro-gravity conditions the theories of Professor (Dr.) Dudley Saville, of the Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey. His theories relate to the stability of fluids subjected to high intensity electromagnetic fields

The "heart" of the Test Container is the carousel. In the quartz cells, at the centre, an electric field of 20.000 Volt is generated, to verify in micro-gravity conditions the electric-hydro-dynamics theories relating to fluid column stability as a function of the applied variable electromagnetic field. To avoid electrical discharge problems, high-performance polymers have been used extensively, coupled with space specific light alloys and vacuum melted steels for increased structural integrity and overall mass reduction.

Picture of the breadboard of the TC4 (carousel)
Picture of the
breadboard of the
TC4 (carousel)

The prototype shown in the picture is the breadboard used for the ground based Test Container verification. The Test Container is a typical example of a mechanical apparatus miniaturisation: in a volume of 350 by 130 by 170 millimetres, the hole "facility" is accommodating, among the other precision components, 52 stainless steel radial ball bearings, 14 micro motors and 14 epicelodial high-ratio speed reducers, 6 electromagnetic valves, electrical connectors, certified up to 75.000 Volts, specific carbon fibre shielding, etc, as specified.

Complete TC4 assembly
Complete TC4

The external housing of the Test Container was machined on a numerically controlled machining centre. This housing required a monolithic piece, for safety concerns, which was machined out of space certified light alloy billet (Ergal 55). The mass of the raw piece was 90 kg, while the finished component, completely ribbed inside for structural integrity, weighed only 4 kg.

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