Ariane 5 opens a busy year of Arianespace missions with the milestone launch of another Automated Transfer Vehicle for Europe
Arianespace began a landmark year of launch activity with an “exceptional” Ariane 5 mission today that orbited the second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) for servicing of the International Space Station.
Lifting off at 6:50 p.m. from the Spaceport in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 vehicle carried its heaviest payload ever, lofting a total mass of 20,050 kg. – which included 19,700 kg. for the ATV, plus associated integration hardware.
“This exceptional launch was the 200th for Ariane, and therefore marks a particularly important step for European space,” said Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall in comments from the Spaceport. “In addition, it is the second time that Europe contributes to the International Space Station’s servicing. And finally, this is the first of 12 launches Arianespace is targeting this year – nine to be performed from here in French Guiana and three from Baikonur Cosmodrome.”
Today’s launch used an Ariane 5 ES version equipped with a storable propellant upper stage, with a flight time of just over one hour. During the mission, the upper stage performed two burns that were separated by a ballistic coast phase, after which the ATV was deployed with the following estimated orbital parameters:
– Perigee: 254.9 km. for a target of 255.3 km.
– Apogee: 262.2 km. for a target of 262.3 km.
– Inclination: 51.6 deg. for a target of 51.6 deg.
The ATV cargo resupply spacecraft was developed for the European Space Agency by an EADS Astrium-led industry consortium, and has been named after German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler. It is the first operational ATV, following the qualification flight of ATV Jules Verne, which was launched by another Ariane 5 in March 2008.
Viewing Ariane 5’s ascent from the International Space Station
European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the Ariane 5’s launch was viewed – and photographed – by the International Space Station’s crew as they watched from the facility’s Cupola, an observatory module that is equipped with seven windows. “We usually see an Ariane launch from the ground, but this time we will have pictures from yet another perspective, in space,” he added.
More than seven metric tons of payload is loaded on the ATV Johannes Kepler – including 4,534 kg. of propellant to be used in the International Space Station’s attitude control system, and for the facility’s altitude re-boost operations. Additionally, it carries nearly 1,600 kg. of dry cargo, plus 100 kg. of oxygen to be used aboard the station.
“With this success, the Guiana Space Center once again confirms that it is part of the very small ‘club’ of space centers that serve the International Space Station – along with Baikonur, Cape Canaveral and Tanegashima,” Arianespace’s Le Gall said.
The launch today was the 42nd consecutive success for Ariane 5 – and the fourth in the past 3.5 months, confirming its reputation as the industry’s workhorse heavy-lift vehicle. “This results from the professionalism, commitment and efficiency of Arianespace’s operational teams, who currently are performing Ariane 5 launches, and in a few months will be doing the same with Soyuz and Vega,” Le Gall explained.
Arianespace’s busy 2011 manifest calls for the Spaceport to host six Ariane 5 missions, along with the first two launches of the medium-lift Soyuz, and the lightweight Vega’s maiden flight; as well as three Soyuz missions from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Arianespace’s next flight will be the March 29 liftoff of an Ariane 5 from French Guiana with the Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn telecommunications satellites.