“Eureca” makes another journey

The much-travelled research satellite Eureca was taken from the aerospace exhibition in the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne and loaded onto an articulated lorry before setting off on yet another adventure. It is undergoing scientific testing at the Empa in Dübendorf. It will then occupy a prominent position in the new aerospace exhibition in the Museum of Transport due to open in November.

The exciting journey of Eureca (European Retrievable Carrier) began on 31 July 1992 when it was launched into space in the belly of the space shuttle “Atlantis”. The satellite was designed with the aim of learning more about the influences of very low gravity, or so-called microgravity. To reduce both construction costs and the amount of debris floating around in space, the ESA decided to call on a reusable satellite.

Into space with Claude Nicollier
Also on-board the space shuttle was the Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, who was responsible for releasing the delicate cargo. Equipped with about 70 different experiments, Eureca spent almost a year (from July 1992 to June 1993) orbiting the Earth at a speed of 28,000 km/h while taking scientific measurements. For example, Eureca was used to acquire major insights into the influence of space on materials and organisms as well as testing new space technologies. The space shuttle “Endeavour” collected the satellite once its mission was complete. Eureca is thus one of the very few examples of an unmanned spacecraft that has returned to Earth intact.

Donation to the Museum of Transport
Back in Bremen where the satellite was manufactured, it was due to be prepared for the second of five planned missions. In November 2000, Eureca was suspended from the ceiling of the aviation hall.

X-rays at Empa
The satellite has left the Museum of Transport to be X-rayed at Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) in Dübendorf. Empa is taking advantage of this unique opportunity to examine a satellite that has already travelled into space. While they were in space, the materials from which is Eureca is made were exposed to extreme conditions such as high temperature variations, cosmic radiation, very small particles and microgravity. The special X-ray unit at Empa uses particularly high-energy radiation, thereby producing very high-resolution images. Only Empa has the means of X-raying the satellite - which is as tall as a man, weighs three tonnes and is four metres wide by three metres long - as a single object and thus to explore its insides.

Technical data
Original   EURECA research platform
Year of construction   1992
LxWxH   600 x 1996 x 360 cm
Weight   3500 kg