Encyclopedia Astronautica
ESA MTFF-Derived Space Station



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ESA MTFF-Station
ESA MTFF-Derived Space Station. This illustration from 1987 shows a typical configuration of the Columbus Man-Tended Free-Flying (MTFF) platform. The Hermés mini-shuttle would have been used to ferry astronauts.
Credit: ESA via Marcus Lindroos
European manned space station. Study 1987. Back in the heady days of 1987, Europe was making plans to build an autonomous space station derived from the Columbus Man-Tended Free-Flying (MTFF) platform as the next logical step after Space Station Freedom.

The Hermes mini-shuttle would have been used to ferry astronauts to it from Earth while a new docking node would have housed life support for a permanent crew (the MTFF did not carry such equipment). Finally, a crew escape vehicle capsule would have been added to return the astronauts safely in an emergency. But these grandiose plans were eventually cancelled in 1991-93.

First, the MTFF's launch was postponed repeatedly, first from 1999 to 2001 and then to 2003. The 1991 Space Station Freedom redesign also made the MTFF totally dependent on Hermes since the Space Station no longer would be capable of servicing free-flying space platforms. In November 1991, ESA decided that the maximum cost of the MTFF and Columbus Attached Pressurized Module would be $5.3 billion in 1992-2005. By this time, the estimated costs to completion had increased by 40.5% for Hermes (17.5% due to technical changes, 23% caused by the four-year stretch), 14.2% for Columbus (as a result of the stretch and design changes mandated by cuts in the US Space Station funding) and 5.7% to Ariane-5 due to technical changes. At the same time, unforeseen events in 1987-91 (German unification, the Gulf War, European integration costs, lower-than-hoped-for economic growth) translated to 24% lower funding for approved ESA programs. 'The days of 'blazing the path to space' for the glory of Europe are now behind us,' one German manager told Aviation Week and Space Technology.

Article by Marcus Lindroos

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Associated Countries
See also
Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Ariane 5 French orbital launch vehicle. The Ariane 5 was a completely new design, unrelated to the earlier Ariane 1 to 4. It consisted of a single-engine Lox/LH2 core stage flanked by two solid rocket boosters. Preparatory work began in 1984. Full scale development began in 1988 and cost $ 8 billion. The design was sized for the Hermes manned spaceplane, later cancelled. This resulted in the booster being a bit too large for the main commercial payload, geosynchronous communications satellites. As a result, development of an uprated version capable of launching two such satellites at a time was funded in 2000. More...
  • Ariane 5G French orbital launch vehicle. Initial version of the Ariane 5, a bit too large for the main commercial geosynchronous communications satellite payloads. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • ESA European agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. European Space Agency, Europe. More...

ESA MTFF-Derived Space Station Chronology


1992 November - .
  • Mir-2 joint use with ESA discussed - . Nation: Russia. Spacecraft: Mir-2; Space Station Freedom; ESA MTFF-Derived Space Station. Summary: Further financial difficulties in Russia and uncertainties with America's Freedom space station led Russia and the European Space Agency to open discussions on joint development and use of Mir-2..

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