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''Plasma Crystal''

News 2006

December 2006

STS-116 Landing

Thomas Reiter and 'PK-3 Plus' data back on Earth

On December 22 the space shuttle Discovery landed safely on Runway 15 at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida returning German astronaut Thomas Reiter to Earth. (Left image courtesy of extNASA.) Reiter served onboard the International Space Station since July as a flight engineer completing the Expedition 13 and Expedition 14 crews.

During his long term stay, Reiter performed the plasma crystal experiment 'PK-3 Plus' six times. One of the goals was to grow large plasma crystals in weightlessness for a structural analysis. And Reiter even had fun doing our experiment, as he confessed in an interview to the German news journal 'Der Spiegel': ''... Especially, in the experiment with complex plasmas, which appear e.g. in fluorescent tubes, I saw spectacular effects that were very astonishing for me. And through the radio I could hear the surprise also to the scientists on Earth who invented the experiment. Now, I'm very curious what the experts will find after a closer analysis of the data.'' ( extDER SPIEGEL 49/2006, p 172)

VHDs The data, i.e. video clips of the microparticles in the plasma, together with logged operating parameters, were recorded on portable harddisk drives, which were returned to Earth (see right image) together with Thomas Reiter with the successful end of mission STS-116 onboard Discovery. The scientists at MPE and the collaborating IHED institute, Moscow, are curious about the data. New insights to the physics of complex 'dusty' plasmas are expected.

October 2006

Thomas Reiter, ISS


PF45 In October two experiments of MPE will be performed in weight­less­ness. German astronaut Thomas Reiter will operate the complex plasma experiment PK-3 Plus on board the International Space Station ISS. Main goal of this experiment session is the growth of large plasma crystals and to analyze their structure.

A few days later MPE's PK-4 experiment -- intended to be on the ISS in 2009 -- will be tested during ESA's 45th parabolic flight campaign. The tests will focus on technical aspects of PK-4, namely the gas system, a new gas jet dispenser and special electrodes for electrical manipulation of the microparticles inside the plasma.

Scientists and engineers of MPE and IHED will be in Moscow (ISS ground control center) and in Bordeaux-Mérignac, France, to conduct the experiments.

On October 20, German TV station Phoenix broadcasts a report about the plasma crystal experiment and the clinical application of plasma technology, now being under investigation in a collaboration between MPE and Hospital (Krankenhaus) München-Schwabing.
extClick here to view. (German only.)

August 2006

Thomas Reiter, ISS

German astronaut Thomas Reiter to do plasma crystal experiment

Thomas Reiter, German astronaut onboard the International Space Station ISS, will perform the MPE's new plasma crystal experiment PK-3 Plus in space on August 18th another time.
Reiter (48) - living on the ISS since July 6th - enhances the extExpedition 13 crew, made up by Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer Jeffrey Williams, as 2nd flight engineer. Including his stay on the space station Mir in 1995/96 the German has now accumulated the most time in space of all European astronauts. He gained experience in several space walks and holds a licence for piloting the russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Two teams of the MPE follow the experiments in August on the ground. One in Moscow from the Russian space control center and one - as a test - from the German space control in Oberpfaffenhofen. In case of success the latter may be used to conduct future plasma crystal experiments in space from Germany.

The German TV station ext'Phoenix' will cover the experiment session in August beginning at 22:45 MEDT. An interview with Prof. Greg Morfill, director of MPE, is planned.

More: extPress information of DLR

March 2006

PK-3 Plus Logo

The PK-3 Plus Mission Patch (Enlarge)

''The mission patch of 'PK-3 Plus' - MPE's next-generation plasma crystal experiment - shows where the experiment is located: onboard the International Space Station in Earth orbit. The background shows a typical view of a plasma crystal which is also the background of the experiment itself: the solid fundament layed by its successful precursor plasma facility on ISS, 'PKE-Nefedov'. The ISS's orientation gives a hint to the experiment's name - a big plus. The flags of the collaborating nations, Russia and Germany, embedded in a light pink plasma glow, rise from Earth and join in space. At the top end they support four star-like features (particles, arranged in a crystal lattice, shining up in laser light?) that also symbolize the experiment's name: THREE (small) and one big PLUS-like stars. The star symbols are taken from NASA's STS-102 mission that brought the Expedition One crew and the data tapes of the first plasma crystal experiments from ISS back to Earth. The rim of the mission patch names the collaborating institutes in Germany and Russia, together with the symbols of their affiliation (Germany's Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and Russian Academy of Science), the industrial partner companies and the funding agencies. The colors are chosen from the mission patch of PKE- Nefedov but the Three-Plus patch is now circular, to symbolize the level of (instrumental) perfection achieved with this new spaceborn plasma crystal facility, PK-3 Plus.''
© M. Kretschmer

January 2006

PK-3 Plus

Valery Tokarev (picture), flight engineer of the 12th ISS crew, performed the new plasma crystal experiment 'PK-3 Plus' of the MPE on January 12. PK-3 Plus was launched to the International Space Station onboard a Russian Progress cargo ship in December 2005. It will replace the 'PKE-Nefedov' facility that is onboard the ISS since March 2001, having provided ground-breaking new insights into the physics of complex ('dusty') plasmas in microgravity. 'Three Plus' will allow to perform experiments with much higher precision, promising even deeper knowledge of the phenomena in complex plasmas.

German astronaut Thomas Reiter is also planned to do plasma crystal experiments during his long term stay onboard the ISS in 2006. (extESA press release)

PK-3 Plus was developed by MPE in collaboration with the Institute for High Energy Density (IHED), Moscow, built by German company Kayser-Threde (Munich) and RKK Energiya (Moscow), and financially supported by the German Aerospace Research Center (DLR) and the Russian Space Agency ROSKOSMOS.

See also press releases by extDLR, Astronews, ESA, ESA (Erasmus), Kayser-Threde, Wissensdurst, Vanguardia (espanol), El Universal, Spaceref (external links).

News 2005

Updated: 2007-01-15   RS
Contact: Michael Kretschmer mail
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