Science and Exploration

Packing ESA’s Last ATV

By Keith Cowing
April 1, 2014
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Packing ESA’s Last ATV
ATV Georges Lemaitre

ESA’s fifth and last Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV Georges Lemaitre, will deliver more than 2600 kg of dry cargo to the International Space Station.
Packing the cargo requires careful planning and execution because it has to endure the rigours of launch this summer on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

All items are placed in standard bags and strapped tightly to the racks. The complete module is rotated to allow the technicians to access the ‘roof’ and ‘floor’ compartments that become the walls. Astronauts in the Space Station can unload the bags in space from all sides as they float in weightlessness.

The technicians are wearing cleanroom suits to prevent contaminating the cargo and spaceship. Living in space weakens human immune systems and every precaution is taken to avoid taking harmful bacteria and viruses to the orbital complex.

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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.