The European Space Agency’s (ESA) fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) launched Tuesday atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, French Guiana, at 7:47 p.m. EDT. The ATV-5 will take a two week trip to the International Space Station docking to the Zvezda service module on Aug. 12 at 9:43 a.m. with 7 tons of science, food, fuel and supplies.
The ATV-5 is named after the 20th century Belgian astronomer, Georges Lemaitre, who first proposed the expansion of the universe and applied Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity to cosmology.
“As ATV Georges Lemaître continues its journey to the International Space Station, my first feeling – which is on behalf of everyone at Arianespace – is one of pride,” Israël said. “Pride in having such a powerful asset as Ariane 5, which is unparalleled in commercial space transportation today.”
During a flight lasting just over one hour, Ariane 5 delivered ATV Georges Lemaître into its targeted circular orbit. The ATV is scheduled to dock with the ISS on August 12, delivering supplies such as water, air, food and propellant to the facility, as well as being able to reboost the International Space Station into its nominal orbit when needed.
En route to the station, the Georges Lemaitre will pass 3.9 miles beneath the space station Aug. 8 so European flight controllers can test new rendezvous sensors. Engineers may use the new sensors in the design and manufacture of future European spacecraft. After the “fly-under”, the ATV-5 will pass in front, above and behind the station for the final four days of its rendezvous with Zvezda.
The ATV-5 was released into a circular orbit by the Ariane 5 ES launch vehicle, at an inclination of 51.6 degrees and an altitude of 260 km. After separating from the launch vehicle, the ATV-5 will be autonomous, using its own systems for energy (batteries and four large solar panels) and guidance (GPS, star sensor), in liaison with the CNES control center in Toulouse. During final approach, an optical navigation system will guide the ATV-5 to its rendezvous with the Space Station. It will remain docked to the ISS for nearly six months, before making a guided reentry and disintegrating in the atmosphere.
The ATV-5 is scheduled to depart the station next January filled with trash and discarded gear. However, the spacecraft will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at a very shallow trajectory allowing the crew and ground controllers to monitor the reentry.
The reentry technique is an exercise to gather data that may be used to monitor the International Space Station when it eventually deorbits. Cameras inside the ATV-5 from Europe, Japan and the United States, will record the breakup of the ATV-5.
Since the beginning of the year, seven resupply vehicles have visited the International Space Station replenishing its crews.
Since 2008, over five ATV missions, Ariane 5 launchers have injected more than 100 metric tons of payload into orbit. Ariane 5 once again demonstrates its ability to handle a wide range of missions, from launches of scientific spacecraft into special orbits, to commercial launches into geostationary transfer orbit.
Following the announcement of ATV-5 orbital injection, Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, said: “We are extremely proud of this successful ATV mission, a strong symbol of Europe’s role in this major international program, thanks to two flagship products from our space industry, Ariane 5 and the ATV. I would like to thank our customer, the European Space Agency, for continuing to express its trust in Arianespace, within the scope of our original mandate, namely to guarantee independent access to Space for Europe. I would also like to congratulate Airbus Defence and Space, the prime contractor for these two programs, as well as all other companies involved, for their remarkable work that has driven the success of these complex missions. This year will be decisive for the future of the European space transport industry, so this evening’s success, the 60th in a row for Ariane, is a very timely reminder of our industry’s excellence, and our proven ability for innovation and performance.”
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