Astrium: double delivery for ATV-3 Edoardo Amaldi launch
12 March 2012
- Astrium built ATV-3, the third European space cargo vehicle, is being prepared for launch to the ISS on March 23
- Astrium is also prime of the Ariane 5 ES launcher
- 6.6 tonnes payload of ISS supplies ranging from toothbrushes to scientific experiments
Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, is completing the mission preparation for the Automated Transfer Vehicle ATV-3. On March 23, 2012, the unmanned cargo resupply spacecraft named after the Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi will be launched on its five-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on board the European Ariane 5 ES launcher. Astrium is the industrial prime contractor for both the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and the Ariane 5 European launcher.
This will be the third ATV mission to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. ATV could be currently considered as the ‘best spaceflight robot’ due to its innovative technologies which enable it to dock automatically with the ISS at about 28,000 km/h.
The Edoardo Amaldi ATV is currently awaiting transfer to the launch pad, having completed an extensive series of tests over the last few weeks. These included combined tests to check the interface between the launcher and ATV, verification of the air cleanliness in the cargo module, and pressure and leak tests. The Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) of the Edoardo Amaldi has been loaded to capacity with supplies for day-to-day use including food, clothing, toiletries, consumables, tools, medical supply packages, replacement parts and new experiments. Known as ‘dry cargo’, this constitutes a total weight of 2.2 tonnes. Around 1.6 tonnes of this dry cargo is the ‘nominal load cargo’, which is loaded onto the vehicle a few months before the launch, while the remaining 600 kg – known as ‘late load cargo’ – are added to the ATV just three weeks prior to launch. Late load cargo includes perishable items and experiments that can only be kept in storage for a limited time.
The ATV’s various tanks will carry more than four tonnes of propellants and gases to the International Space Station (the ATV total is more than six tonnes including propellant needed for its own journey). The propellants will be used for multiple purposes, including attitude control, manoeuvring, and refuelling the ISS. The Edoardo Amaldi ATV will also transport 285 kg of water and 100 kg of oxygen to the ISS. With a take-off weight approaching 20 tonnes, the ATV-3 is one of the heaviest payloads ever carried into orbit by an Ariane launcher.
The 2.2 tonnes of cargo and 1,062 individual items are divided up into a total of 153 bags to enable the astronauts to unload the Edoardo Amaldi on a gradual basis according to their requirements. One of the items the ATV-3 will be carrying is a new ventilator for the European Columbus laboratory. Regular replacement of this lab component is just one of the tasks undertaken by Astrium as part of the Exploitation Contract which was signed with ESA for the European components of the ISS.
The Edoardo Amaldi ATV will also be carrying a whole series of new experiments to the ISS. For instance, the cargo includes a human biology experimental device which will investigate the body’s energy management processes under weightless conditions. This experiment will provide important insights which can be applied to future long-term missions in weightless conditions. In addition, the BIOLAB facility in the Columbus research laboratory will be equipped with a module which will make it possible to deliver precisely defined supplies of clean air to the experiments performed in the laboratory.
The ATV-3 payload will also include toothbrushes of different bristle hardness and toothpaste of various flavours as part of efforts to make the astronauts feel more at home on the ISS. One of the cargo bags will even contain LEGO® Technic sets, part of a range of experiments that NASA is conducting for a special series of lessons for school pupils back on Earth.
Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, is responsible for developing and building the ATV as industrial prime contractor to the European Space Agency (ESA). The production of the ATV units – as well as mission preparation and operations support – is covered by the Exploitation Contract which governs the operation and provision of the European components of the ISS. Following the successful missions conducted by the development stage ATV Jules Verne, ESA contracted Astrium to produce four additional ATV units. Edoardo Amaldi ATV will be the third resupply spacecraft to make its way to the ISS.
The production phase of the ATV units is currently running precisely according to schedule: the Edoardo Amaldi ATV is completing launch preparations, ATV-4 Albert Einstein – scheduled to launch in early 2013 – is currently undergoing its first flightworthiness and functionality tests in Bremen, and ATV-5 Georges Lemaître has already reached the integration stage.
Astrium is – at the same time – prime contractor for the Ariane 5 launcher, the reliable European workhorse designed and built for a large variety of heavy lift missions. In its specific ES version, the launch vehicle will inject the ATV resupply spacecraft into a circular orbit at a targeted altitude of 260km with a speed of 7600 m/s. The launch performance will achieve more than 20 tonnes of payload mass, one of the highest performances for the market-leading Ariane 5 programme. It will be the 61st flight of an Ariane 5 launcher.
The launcher will lift-off with a defined trajectory in a north-eastern direction over the Atlantic Ocean, drop the two solid rocket boosters, the payload fairings and later its cryogenic main stage. Ariane 5 will head towards Europe, fly over France, Luxemburg, Germany, Poland and later Ukraine and Russia. After about one hour, ATV Edoardo Amaldi will be separated from the EPS stage of the launcher which will safely enter into its passivation phase in the Pacific Ocean, whereas the ATV will continue to travel autonomously towards the ISS.
Ariane 5 is developed, produced and adapted to each specific mission by Astrium acting as industrial prime contractor managing a highly professional European supply chain for equipments and stages and their integration in French Guiana. Main components comprise the EPC main stage with its Vulcain 2 engine, the two boosters and the EPS upper stage with its Aestus engine.
Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Astrium had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands.
Astrium is the sole European company that covers the whole range of civil and defence space systems and services.
Its three business units are: Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure; Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment; Astrium Services for comprehensive fixed and mobile end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security and broadcast satellite communications equipment and systems, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.
Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.
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