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Technology which enables the vehicle, Kepler, to dock to the International Space Station developed by Thales Alenia Space España

24 February 2011

Today Europe’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2), Johannes Kepler, will start approximating its maneuvers for the docking to the International Space Station (ISS) by using the telecommunication systems developed by the Spanish company Thales Alenia Space España.

After the success of the first qualified flight of the ATV Jules Verne in 2008, this second ATV-2 mission – launched by an Ariane 5 ES on the 16th of February from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana – consolidates the European space transport activities to the ISS.

Thales Alenia Space España, supplies the telecommunication systems, and the electronic equipment for the deployment of solar panels for the first five ATV vehicles and the ISS.

The communication system on board the ATV has been critical to the mission since the moment of its launch. The TTC system on board the ATV sends crucial data (so-called telemetry) concerning the state of the propulsion, navigation, and the general vehicle systems to the Earth stations, and, in turn, it receives information (so-called telecommands) from the Earth stations, through NASA´s satellite transmission network TDRSS.

A second telecommunication system establishes communication links of proximity between the vehicle and the International Space Station, providing an automatic approximation of the distance of the vehicle to the ISS, from a few kilometres up to 11 meters, for its final docking.

Thales Alenia Space España is the only supplier of telecommunications systems for TTC data compatible with TDRSS satellites and validated by NASA. The Spanish company is a leading global telecommunications provider strongly-rooted in the fields of space transport and infrastructures for the European ATV and the Japanese HTV refuelling vehicles. Also, it actively works in the definition and development of telecommunications and flight rendezvous systems for future manned vehicles (ARV).

On behalf of Astrium Space Transportation, the ATV prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space is also responsible for the design and manufacturing of the ATV’s Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC). and passive thermal control system.

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