Europe’s fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle is loaded with cargo for its launch by Arianespace
Cargo loading has commenced in French Guiana for the fifth – and final – European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which is being prepared for a 2014 launch from the Spaceport on Arianespace’s next Ariane 5 servicing mission to the International Space Station.
The ATV – designated Georges Lemaître after the Belgian physicist and father of the Big Bang theory – is to resupply the crewed space station facility, perform maneuvers to maintain its nominal orbit and test new rendezvous sensors in space.
In addition to the fuel and air it will carry to the International Space Station, ATV Georges Lemaître will hold over 2,600 kg. of dry cargo. Some 1,500 kg. of this total amount was loaded during recent activity in the S5C large preparation hall of the Spaceport’s S5 payload processing facility, with transfer of the remaining cargo anticipated for late June or early July.
The dry cargo is contained in special bags that are positioned on racks inside the ATV’s Integrated Cargo Carrier, with the locations calculated based on their contents and considerations for the resupply spacecraft’s center-of-mass determination. Cargo loading is performed in clean-room conditions that meet standards for manned spaceflight, as the ATV becomes an integral part of the International Space Station while docked to the platform in Earth orbit.
Prior to the ATV’s launch as part of Arianespace’s fast-paced manifest in 2014, its Integrated Cargo Carrier will be mated with the Service Module in French Guiana to form the complete vehicle. The ATV’s unpressurized Service Module contains propulsion systems, electrical power, computers, communications and a majority of the vessel’s avionics.
The ATV program is part of Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station’s operation, and is managed by the European Space Agency. Prime contractor is Airbus Defence and Space, which leads a European industry team.
All ATVs have been orbited by Ariane 5 launchers, beginning with “Jules Verne” in March 2008, which was followed by “Johannes Kepler” in February 2011, “Edoardo Amaldi” in March 2012, and last June’s flight with “Albert Einstein.”