European Retrievable Carrier

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European Retrievable Carrier
STS-46 EURECA deployment.jpg
EURECA deployment in 1992
Mission type Materials science
Operator ESA
COSPAR ID 1992-049B
SATCAT № 22065
Mission duration 1 year
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer MBB-ENRO
Launch mass 4,491 kilograms (9,901 lb)
Power 1,000 watts
Start of mission
Launch date 31 July 1992, 11:56:48 UTC
Rocket Space Shuttle Atlantis
Launch site Kennedy LC-39B
Deployment date 2 August 1992 (1992-08-02)
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Eccentricity 6.597756873816252E-4
Perigee 438 kilometres (272 mi)
Apogee 447 kilometres (278 mi)
Inclination 28.5 degrees
Period 93.4000015258789 minutes
EURECA retrieval in 1993

The European Retrievable Carrier (EURECA) was an unmanned 4.5 tonne satellite with 15 experiments.[1] It was an ESA mission and the acronym was derived from Archimedes' bathtub revelation; Eureka!.

It was built by the German MBB-ERNO and had automatic material science cells as well as small telescopes for Solar observation (including x-ray).

It was launched 31 July 1992 by STS-46 - Atlantis, and put into an orbit at an altitude of 508 km. EURECA was retrieved on 1 July 1993 by STS-57- Endeavour and returned to Earth. It was designed to fly five times with different experiments but the following flights were cancelled.

EURECA is one of the few unmanned space vehicles that have been returned to the Earth unharmed. EURECA has been on display at the Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne since 2000.


EURECA was made of high-strength carbon-fiber struts and titanium nodal points joined together to form a framework of cubic elements. Thermal control on EURECA combined both active and passive heat transfer and radiation systems. Active heat transfer was achieved by means of a freon cooling loop which dissipated the thermal load through two radiators into space. The passive system made use of multilayer insulation blankets combined with electrical heaters.

The electrical subsystem was powered by deployable and retractable solar arrays together with four 40 amp-hour nickel-cadmium batteries. When EURECA was in the Shuttle cargo bay, power was supplied by the Shuttle. The modular attitude and orbit control subsystem (AOCS) maintained attitude and spacecraft orientation and stabilization. An orbit transfer assembly, consisting of four thrusters, was used to boost EURECA to its operational attitude (515 km) and return it to retrievable orbit (about 300 km).

EURECA was three-axis stabilized by means of a magnetic torque assembly together with a nitrogen reaction control assembly (RCA). Data handling was carried out by EURECAs data handling subsystem (DHS) supported by telemetry and command subsystems providing the link to the ground station.


EURECA consisted of 15 experiments:[2]

  • Solution Growth Facility (SGF) (Belgium, Denmark, Norway)
  • Protein Crystallization Facility (PCF) (Germany)
  • Exobiology Radiation Assembly (ERA) (Germany)
  • Multi-Furnace Assembly (MFA) (Italy)
  • Automatic Mirror Furnace (AMF) (Germany)
  • Surface Forces Adhesion Instrument (SFA) (Italy)
  • High Precision Thermostat Instrument (HPT) (Germany)
  • Solar Constant and Variability Instrument (SOVA) (Belgium)
  • Solar Spectrum Instrument (SOSP) (France)
  • Occultation Radiometer Instrument (ORI) (Belgium)
  • Wide Angle Telescope (WATCH) (Denmark)
  • Timeband Capture Cell Experiment (TICCE) (Great Britain)
  • Radio Frequency Ionization Thruster Assembly (RITA) (Germany)
  • Inter-Orbit Communications (IOC) (France/the Netherlands)
  • Advanced Solar Gallium Arsenide Array (ASGA) (Italy)

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ EURECA Scientific Results, Advances in Space Research, Vol. 16, Issue 8 (1995) 1-140.