Bartolomeo, a space platform named after the younger brother of Christopher Columbus is well on it’s way to the International Space Station (ISS). It was launched successfully on the 06th of March 2020 from Cape Canaveral in the USA. It will be meeting it’s elder brother, the Columbus Laboratory outside which the platform would be installed in the European module of the ISS. The Bartolomeo offers a unique vantage point 400 kilometres above the Earth. From this position, scientists get and unobstructed views of the Earth. It enables hosting of external payload in low-Earth-orbit.

The platform has been developed and built by Airbus. It has been funded by Airbus and would be operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The platform can host up to 12 different payloads for various experiments. It provides power supply for the payloads as well as data connectivity back to mother Earth. These payloads would help conduct various experiments like Earth observation, but also environmental and climate research, robotics, material sciences, astrophysics or to test new technologies in space, paving the way for their commercialisation.

The Bartolomeo has the capacity to host payloads varying in weight and dimensions from 5 Kgs to 450 Kgs. All payloads can be provided with an optical data downlink capacity of one to two Terabytes per day. Payloads can be delivered for installation every 3 months due to restrictions imposed by the launch windows. The payload sizes, interfaces, preparation before launch and integration process have been largely standardised by Airbus. This has helped in reducing lead times before missions and also saves costs significantly compared to traditional mission costs.

Andreas Hammer, Airbus’ Head of Space Exploration said: “This unique platform will offer new and affordable Earth observation applications and give companies and research institutions the unique opportunity to explore their project quickly and easily in space.”