Arianespace has successfully launched the ATV-5 Georges Lemaître cargo vessel, which will play a vital role in ferrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch took place on July 29 at 08: 47: 38 pm (local time) from the Guiana Space Center in French Guiana. This marked the 60th successful mission in a row for Ariane 5 since 2003, which is a record for launchers on the commercial market, clearly reflecting the excellence of the European space transport industry in support of international space programs.
A new payload performance record for Ariane 5
On its 60th successful launch in a row, Arianespace set a new record for payload performance: weighing in at 20,300 kg, the ATV-5 is the largest payload ever lofted into orbit by Europe.
Since 2008, over five ATV missions, Ariane 5 launchers have injected more than 100 metric tons of payload into orbit. Ariane 5 once again demonstrates its ability to handle a wide range of missions, from launches of scientific spacecraft into special orbits, to commercial launches into geostationary transfer orbit.
Supporting the International Space Station
The ATV ferries supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), including water, oxygen, fuel, spare parts and equipment for onboard experiments, on behalf of ESA and NASA. Docked to the ISS, the ATV also helps reboost the ISS into its nominal orbit at an altitude of 450 km. The ISS structure now weighs about 420 metric tons, and includes the European laboratory, Columbus. After being docked to the ISS for six months, the ATV-5 will be loaded with waste and other expendable materials, then detached from the ISS and deorbited.
The ATV-5 was released into a circular orbit by the Ariane 5 ES launch vehicle, at an inclination of 51.6 degrees and an altitude of 260 km. After separating from the launch vehicle, the ATV-5 will be autonomous, using its own systems for energy (batteries and four large solar panels) and guidance (GPS, star sensor), in liaison with the CNES control center in Toulouse. During final approach, an optical navigation system will guide the ATV-5 to its rendezvous with the Space Station, where it will automatically dock on August 12. It will remain docked to the ISS for nearly six months, before making a guided reentry and disintegrating in the atmosphere.
A team success for Europe
With this latest successful launch Arianespace continues its commitment to European participation in major international space programs. Like its predecessors , the latest ATV honors a leading European space visionary, in this case the Belgian scientist Georges Lemaître, father of the Big Bang theory.
Following the announcement of ATV-5 orbital injection, Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, said: “We are extremely proud of this successful ATV mission, a strong symbol of Europe’s role in this major international program, thanks to two flagship products from our space industry, Ariane 5 and the ATV. I would like to thank our customer, the European Space Agency, for continuing to express its trust in Arianespace, within the scope of our original mandate, namely to guarantee independent access to Space for Europe. I would also like to congratulate Airbus Defence and Space, the prime contractor for these two programs, as well as all other companies involved, for their remarkable work that has driven the success of these complex missions. This year will be decisive for the future of the European space transport industry, so this evening’s success, the 60th in a row for Ariane, is a very timely reminder of our industry’s excellence, and our proven ability for innovation and performance.”
Next scheduled launch: VS09, using a Soyuz rocket to launch Galileo satellites, scheduled for August 21, 2014 at 12:31 UTC.