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''Plasma Crystal''

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November 2008

German and Russian Flag

10 years of successful german-russian collaboration

In these days the International Space Station ISS celebrates its ext10th anniversary. Also the MPE has a good reason for celebration: 10 years ago Prof. Vladimir Fortov - at this time research minister in the Yeltsin government - and Prof. Gregor Morfill - Max Planck Director and head of MPE's Theory Group - met for the first time to initiate a common project on complex plasma research. With the assistance of the companies Kayser-Threde (Munich) and RKK Energia (Moscow) and with financial supports by DLR (German Aerospace Center) and Roskosmos (Russian Space Agency) the complex plasma laboratory ''PKE-Nefedov'' was implemented and launched to the ISS in 2001 as the first physical experiment onboard the new space station. Between 2001 and 2005 the PKE-Nefedov facility took part in 13 experimental sessions in space which makes it the most used experiment onboard the space station. Since 2006 the improved plasma facility ''PK-3 Plus'' continues the successful story of German-Russian collaboration on complex plasmas in microgravity.

Group pictures On the occasion of this anniversary a Russian delegation headed by Prof. Vladimir Fortov visits the MPE to have a joint symposium. Other guests are from the Institute for High Temperatures (JIHT, formerly known as IHED), from the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, personnel from DLR, Roskosmos and Kayser-Threde, and last, but not least, the three Russian Cosmonauts Yuri Baturin, Salizhan Sharipov, and Pavel Vinogradov. German astronaut Thomas Reiter - today member of the extDLR directorate - joined us at a reception at the Bavarian Ministry of Economics. He also performed our experiment twice during his stay on the ISS in 2006.

During this symposium the latest results of complex plasma research are presented and reports of live and work onboard the space station are given by the cosmonauts. All participants agree that the collaboration over 10 years can be described as very rewarding and it should be continued in this way in future.

The picture on the right side shows members of the Russian delegation, among which are the ISS cosmonauts Yuri Baturin (extSoyuz Taxi Flight 2), Salizhan Sharipov (extExpedition 10) and Pavel Vinogradov (extExpedition 13), who performed MPE's plasma crystal experiment in Earth orbit. (Click to enlarge.)

September 2008

Powersolo - ''Plasma Crystal Dope''
Plasma crystal experiment inspires Rock'n'Roll band

Powersolo Video While searching the world wide web for 'plasma crystal' we found a music video produced by the Danish Rock'n'Roll band 'Powersolo' titled 'Plasma Crystal Dope'. We have the slight suspicion that MPE's plasma crystal experiment onboard the International Space Station ISS inpired the group to this title.

The song is about a ''mission'' called ''The Plasma Crystal'' that ''circles around planet Earth at Mach 21''. A damaged (space shuttle heat protection?) ''tile'' makes the astronauts wait a while. In the meantime they smoke ''Plasma Crystal Dope''. The video shows an astronaut (Kim Kix from Powersolo) carrying green (plasma?) crystals in his gloves.

Powersolo, if you read this: Great song! Whenever you are near Munich please visit us and take a look at some of our plasma crystals. And please bring some of these cool plasma crystal dope t-shirts you wear in the video. Thanks a lot!
PKE Webmaster

extWatch the video!

July 2008

Mission 9 Team
Mission 9 Team-Autogramme und PK-3 Plus Emblem in Koroljow, Moskau (Bild: MS)
9th Mission of PK-3 Plus onboard the ISS

Research staff members of MPE are now in Moscow - exactly at the Russian space control center in Korolev - to prepare the 9th mission of MPE's complex plasma experiment 'PK-3 Plus' onboard the International Space Station.
Mierks Bild The main topic of this experiment session, where the facility and a Russian cosmonaut are available to us for 90 minutes on 3 days, is the investigation of 'Thermo­phoretic Bubbles' in a complex plasma. This phenomenon was discovered in a MPE laboratory and is now to be studied under the unique microgravity conditions in space.

PK-3 Plus is onboard the ISS since December 2005, replacing the former MPE developed facility 'PKE-Nefedov' which was operated at 13 experiment sessions between 2001 and 2005 and that was very successful in providing total new insights to the physics of complex plasmas under microgravity.

With the MPE team in Moscow is also Mierk Anne Schwabe (right picture) who exclusively writes about the progress of the mission and her personal experiences during her stay in Russia for a Blog of the German science magazine Spektrum der Wissenschaft ( You can follow her daily reports at extWISSENSlog ''Zündspannung'' (German only).

June 2008

GiW2008 Banner
Morfill Mueller

Scientific Symposium in Munich

By invitation of Prof. Gregor Morfill (MPE) and under the patronage of the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology Ms. Emilia Müller (extWebsite) representatives of research institutes, industry and politics meet in June at a two-day symposium in Munich, Bavaria, to discuss issues of space-borne fundamental research to be conducted in Germany in the next decades. The goals are:
  • Identification of the most important scientific challenges in fundamental research that need to be done in space,
  • Determination of the existing national know-how and the intermediate and long-term plans,
  • Clarification of a coordinated strategy of research funding and the resulting international placing of the national desires and claims.
This should be summarized in a note for the convention of ESA's council of ministers which is going to meet in fall 2008.

Main topics are:
  • Gravity & Relativity
  • Dark Energy & Dark Matter
  • Natural Constants
  • Crtitical Phänomena
  • Planets, Stars, Galaxies
  • Soft Matter
  • Quantum Physics in the Universe
Conference site:
Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wirtschaft,
Infrastruktur, Verkehr und Technologie,
Prinzregentenstraße 28, 80538 München,

For more information and registration visit the dedicated web site.

See also: Review by extKayser-Threde, press release by MPG (German only).

February 2008

STS-122 Start
Launch of STS-122 (NASA)
Columbus now part of the International Space Station

PK-4 Logo The European research module ''Columbus'' reaches the International Space Station ISS inside the space shuttle Atlantis. With the docking of Columbus the ISS - now made up mainly by Russian and American parts - will truly be 'international'.

Columbus is also important for the MPE because the next complex plasma experiment PK-4, being under contruction now, will be launched to the space station in 2010 and probably be installed in the European module.

MPE staff members attended the launch party and watched the launch that was screened live at the German space control center, located in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, together with the head of the State of Bavaria, Ministerpräsident Günther Beckstein. The launch was commented live by German astronaut Ulf Merbold (see Video (mp4)).
(Apple QuickTime Player needed for play-back. Video © M. Kretschmer)

For more information see these extDLR press releases: Columbus, Launch, Docking, EVA.

News 2007, 2006, 2005

Updated: 2008-12-03
Contact: Michael Kretschmer mail
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