Ariane 5 is in the launch zone for its February 15 mission with Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle
An Ariane 5 with the heaviest payload ever for this workhorse Arianespace launcher is poised for liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana on an historic mission to service the International Space Station.
The launcher rolled out today from the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building, where it was fitted with the second Automated Transfer Vehicle for Europe. Installed atop one of two mobile tables used for Ariane 5, it is now in place at the ELA-3 launch zone – enabling final preparations to begin for a departure scheduled tomorrow at precisely 7:13:27 p.m., local time in French Guiana.
This Automated Transfer Vehicle is named after German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, and will be the first operational ATV. It follows the qualification flight of ATV Jules Verne, the initial cargo resupply spacecraft for Europe that was launched by an Ariane 5 in March 2008.
Total payload lift performance for tomorrow’s mission is 20,050 kg. – which includes 19,700 kg. for the ATV, plus associated integration hardware. The ATV Johannes Kepler has been loaded with more than 7 metric tons of its own cargo and supplies – including propellant weighing 4,534 kg. to be used in the International Space Station’s attitude control system, and for the facility’s altitude re-boost operations. Also included is nearly 1,600 kg. of dry cargo and 100 kg. of oxygen for use aboard the station.
The Ariane 5’s flight with ATV Johannes Kepler is to last just over one hour, and will include two burns of the launcher’s EPS storable propellant upper stage – separated by a 45-minute ballistic coast phase. Once the cargo resupply spacecraft is released into a 260-kilometer orbit, the Ariane 5’s EPS upper stage will be reignited a third time to de-orbit the launcher’s upper component, sending it towards a splashdown in a deserted area of the South Pacific.
In addition to being the heaviest payload mission for Ariane 5, this launch will mark the milestone 200th flight of Europe’s launcher family since the first liftoff of an Ariane 1 version in December 1979.