Astrium ships ATV “Johannes Kepler”
“Johannes Kepler”, the second European spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), is on its way to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has undergone extensive system testing at Astrium’s Bremen site over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for the final preparation stage prior to the cargo spacecraft’s flight to the ISS.
“Johannes Kepler” is slated for launch at the end of 2010. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), Astrium is responsible for both the development and production of the ATV. The production of ATV units two to five – as well as mission preparation and operations support – is covered by the contract, which governs the operation and provision of the European components of the ISS. Astrium is responsible for carrying out these activities on behalf of ESA.
“Johannes Kepler” is the first production unit, following on from the successful first flight model “Jules Verne”, explained Dr. Michael Menking, Senior Vice President of Orbital Systems and Space Exploration at Astrium, as the ATV will set off from Bremen tomorrow. “At present Astrium has orders for a total of four ATV production units from ESA, which is testimony to the high reliability Astrium has shown as ESA’s prime contractor for the development of ATV and also the Columbus space laboratory.
The extension of the ISS mission until 2020 presents Astrium with further opportunities in regard to both the supply and operation of the ISS. For example, two further ATVs will be needed for supply operations between now and 2020.” Dr Menking also confirmed that production of the ATV units is currently running according to schedule: Johannes Kepler is on its way to Kourou, ATV 3 “Edoardo Amaldi” has reached the integration stage in Bremen, ATV 4 integration is set to start shortly and ATV 5 is entering the equipment manufacturing stage.
“Johannes Kepler” will be shipped in several parts to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, accompanied by 59 sea containers filled with test equipment. At Kourou’s space port final assembly will be performed on the spacecraft, Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), solar panels and the Separation and Distancing Module (SDM), which forms the interface between the ATV and Ariane. The ATV will then be subjected to further extensive tests on site before being loaded, fuelled and installed within the payload fairing of an Ariane 5. “According to our planning schedule we will be ready to launch this second mission to the ISS at the end of 2010”, added Dr Menking. It is planned to produce the other ATVs in a programme of one per year.