Mission Update

Mission Update

The next ATV resupply spacecraft arrives for Arianespace's 2012 mission to service the International Space Station

The MN Toucan passes the Kourou waterfront on its way to docking at Pariacabo Port, completing a voyage from Europe with the next Automated Transfer Vehicle to be launched by Arianespace.

August 26, 2011 – Ariane Flight VA205

Arianespace’s role in supporting the International Space Station’s continuing operations was underscored with the arrival of Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) resupply vessel in French Guiana, which is to be launched next year by an Ariane 5 for servicing of the crewed facility in Earth orbit.

The ATV Edoardo Amaldi – named after the Italian cosmic ray physicist who was a founding father of European space research – is now at the Spaceport after arriving yesterday in French Guiana aboard the MN Toucan.  This roll-on/roll-off seagoing vessel is one of two used by Arianespace to transport launch vehicle components from Europe to South America, and the ships also are made available for exceptional loads such as the ATV.

One of the containers with elements for the ATV Edoardo Amaldi is unloaded from the roll-on/roll-off MN Toucan at Pariacabo Port near Kourou.

For its three-week voyage from Germany’s North Sea harbor of Bremerhaven, the ATV Edoardo Amaldi was shipped in three sections that were protected by hermetically-sealed containers, accompanied by some 45 other containers with test and checkout equipment for the spacecraft’s preparation at the Spaceport.

This will be the third ATV launched by Arianespace, following its orbiting of the ATV Johannes Kepler this past February, and ATV Jules Verne in March 2008. 

With the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle fleet, Europe’s ATV is the largest vehicle supplying the International Space Station, and is among the heaviest payloads orbited by Ariane 5 – weighing in at some 20 metric tons for liftoff.  Pre-launch preparations at the Spaceport are performed to strict safety and cleanliness standards of a manned spacecraft, as the vehicle becomes part of the International Space Station while docked to the orbital facility.

The ATVs typically carry water, gases, fuel, food and scientific equipment to the International Space Station.  While docked to the facility for up to six months, the ATVs are used as well to regularly boost the station back up to its operational orbit of approximately 400 km., while also performing attitude control duties, and carrying out maneuvers to avoid collisions with space debris.  Once their missions are completed, the ATVs are loaded with waste and undocked for a controlled re-entry and burn-up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Current planning calls for the ATV Edoardo Amaldi to be launched in the spring of 2012, carrying about two metric tons of dry cargo, 285 kg. of water and more than three tons of propellant.

The ATV program is performed under management of the European Space Agency, and is part of Europe’s contribution to International Space Station’s creation and operation.  Production of the resupply spacecraft involves a European industry team led by prime contractor EADS Astrium.

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