ATV “Albert Einstein” burns up over the Pacific
ESA’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo ferry, Albert Einstein, completed its five-month mission to the International Space Station by reentering the atmosphere today and burning up safely over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.
At 20 tonnes, ATV-4 set the record for the heaviest Ariane 5 launch when its mission started from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 5 June, docking with the Station 10 days later. The record cargo of 2480 kg included more than 1400 individual items.
While docked, ATV-4 performed six reboosts to keep the Space Station in orbit, counteracting the effects of atmospheric drag. Without reboosts by ATV and Russia’s smaller Progress vehicles, the Station would eventually fall back to Earth.
Before its departure, astronauts loaded its pressurised module with waste material, freeing up space on the Station. After setting records going up, ATV-4 also set records on its descent: it had the most waste material loaded for the series.
The European ferry undocked on 28 October at 08:55 GMT (09:55 CET) and manoeuvred itself into a safe reentry trajectory about 100 km below the Station.
Albert Einstein performed a series of delicate manoeuvres to reenter below the Station in order for the astronauts to observe the spacecraft’s fragmentation in the upper atmosphere, providing unique information on reentry physics.
ATV-4 and its waste burnt up harmlessly in the upper atmosphere on 2 November at 12:04 GMT (13:04 CET).
The next spacecraft in the series, ATV Georges Lemaître, has already arrived by boat at the European spaceport in French Guiana. Loading cargo into the pressurised module will start in March next year. ATV-5’s modules will then be combined and placed on its Ariane launcher for launch at the end of June.