ATV-4 on the way to ISS
ESA’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, Albert Einstein, was launched into orbit last evening from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Europe’s autonomous supply ship will perform a series of manoeuvres to dock with the International Space Station on 15 June.<br />
The Ariane 5 rocket, operated by Arianespace, lifted off at 21:52:11 GMT (23:52:11 CEST, 18:52:11 local time) and delivered ATV-4 into the planned circular parking orbit at 260 km altitude about 64 minutes later. ATV then deployed its four power-generating solar wings and antenna boom.
The ship is being monitored by the ATV Control Centre, jointly operated by ESA and CNES, the French space agency, in Toulouse. It will complete the Launch and Early Orbit Phase in some six hours after launch and is due to rendezvous and dock automatically with the Station at 13:46 GMT (15:46 CEST) on 15 June.
At 20 190 kg, ATV Albert Einstein is the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by Ariane, beating predecessor ATV Edoardo Amaldi by some 150 kg. ESA’s resupply and reboost vehicle is the largest, most advanced and most capable of the vehicles servicing the orbital outpost.
ATV-4 is carrying a record payload of 2480 kg dry cargo, including 620 kg of ‘last minute’ items, which were installed while on top of Ariane, less than two weeks before launch. Stored in ATV’s pressurised section, this cargo is also the most diverse ever, with more than 1400 items.
In addition, ATV-4 has 2580 kg of propellants for reboosting the Station’s orbit and 860 kg more to refill the tanks of the Zvezda module. It will also pump 570 kg of drinking water and 100 kg of gases (two tanks of oxygen, one of air) into the Station’s tanks.
ATV was developed for ESA by European industry, with Astrium as prime contractor, to deliver goods and propellants under a barter agreement with NASA to support Europe’s share of the Station’s operating costs. It features high-precision navigation systems, highly redundant flight software and a fully autonomous self-monitoring and collision-avoidance system with independent power supplies, control and thrusters.