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  • Complex Plasma Research on ISS - Past, Present and Future Facilities

    Paper number



    Mr. Roland Seurig, Kayser-Threde GmbH, Germany


    Prof. Gregor Morfill, Max-Planck-Institut for Extraterrestrial Physic, Germany


    Prof. Vladimir Fortov, Institute for High Energy Densities, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia


    Dr. Peter Hofmann, Kayser-Threde GmbH, Germany



    The research in dusty plasma, also known as complex plasma, under prolonged microgravity condition took its first steps in 1998 on-board the Russian Space Station MIR: cosmonauts Vladimir Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov conducted the first experiments to obtain plasma-dust crystals in a PK-1 device. This was followed by the use of PK-2 equipment consisting of a gas discharge lamp. 
    A major step came only three years later with the PKE-Nefedov facility (formerly called PKE-3) which was delivered to MPE and IHED by Kayser-Threde (D). Launched in February 2001 and operated in over 12 missions for five consecutive years in the Russian Segment of the International Space Station ISS, this bilateral German-Russian research facility has already shown some surprising, new behavior of radio-frequency induced complex plasmas. With PKE-Nefedov resources coming to an end, this successful bi-lateral facility will be continued. The next generation PK-3 Plus Experiment Apparatus is already in Phase C2/D and is getting readied by Kayser-Threde for launch in December 2005 with a Progress Cargo spacecraft. With the research results gained from its pre-cursor, PK-3 Plus contains an upgraded radio frequency plasma chamber and upgraded diagnostics. 
    With the PK-4 project a new research facility to investigate direct-current induced complex plasma was initiated. PK-4 left the pure ground-based laboratory environment already behind by participating in several parabolic flight campaigns; the development Phase B will be initiated in 2005.
    The IMPACT Laboratory is the logical next step to provide a home and rallying point for the worldwide growing research efforts under microgravity conditions in the fields of dusty plasma and interactions of cosmic and atmospheric particle systems. In November 2003, the European Space Agency awarded the Preliminary Design Phase B of IMPACT Laboratory, which is the next generation premier research laboratory for plasma and dust physics on the International Space Station, to the industrial team lead by Kayser-Threde, Germany. Initially conceived as two separate facilities with very different development histories through their early concept phases, IMPF (International Microgravity Plasma Facility) and ICAPS (Interactions of Cosmic and Atmospheric Particle Systems) were combined into one IMPACT Laboratory, the International Microgravity Plasma Atmospheric and Cosmic dust Twin Laboratory. The international science communities are looking forward to utilizing their new home on ISS starting in 2008/9.
    The paper will provide background information of each of the complex plasma research facilities with a special emphasis on PK-3 Plus. 
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-05-B4.3.09.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.