Status Report

Astrium ships ATV “Edoardo Amaldi”

By SpaceRef Editor
August 15, 2011
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Bremen, 11 August 2011 – “Edoardo Amaldi”, the third European cargo spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), is on its way to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has undergone extensive system testing at Astrium’s Bremen site over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for the final stage prior to the cargo spacecraft’s flight to the ISS.

“Edoardo Amaldi” is slated for launch in the spring of 2012. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), Astrium is responsible for both development and production of the ATV. The production of ATV units two to five – as well as mission preparation and operations support – is covered by the “Exploitation” contract, which governs the operation and provisioning of the European components of the ISS. Astrium is responsible for carrying out these activities on ESA’s behalf.

“Edoardo Amaldi” is the second production unit, following on from the highly successful first flight model “Jules Verne” and the first production unit “Johannes Kepler”. Astrium has orders for a total of four ATV production units from ESA – a testimony to the high reliability Astrium has shown as ESA’s prime contractor for the development of ATV and also of Columbus.

“The extension of the ISS mission until 2020 presents Astrium with further opportunities in regard to both the supply and the operation of the ISS,” explained Dr. Michael Menking, Astrium’s Senior Vice President of Orbital Systems and Exploration, speaking as the ATV set off from Bremen on Thursday. He also confirmed that production of the ATV units is currently running according to schedule: “Edoardo Amaldi” is on its way to Kourou, and ATV 4 “Albert Einstein” has reached the integration stage in Bremen. Menking added that delivery of the first batch of structures for ATV 5 is imminent, which will enable integration work to begin soon.

ATV must comply with the safety requirements for human spaceflight. Thus ATV’s digital and electronic architecture features double and triple redundancies. A fault-tolerant computer – consisting of three computer modules – ensures the reliable and smooth execution of the ATV mission.

“With the retirement of the US Space Shuttle, ATV is the largest vehicle supplying the ISS. Considering its technological challenges, like automatic rendezvous and docking, ATV is the most sophisticated space vehicle ever built in Europe,” said Menking.

“Edoardo Amaldi” will be shipped to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, in three special containers, accompanied by some 45 sea containers taking care of test equipment. At Kourou’s spaceport, final assembly will be performed on the spacecraft, Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), solar panels and the Separation and Distancing Module (SDM), which forms the interface between ATV and the Ariane 5 launcher. The ATV will then be subjected to further extensive tests on site before being fuelled, loaded and integrated as a payload on an Ariane 5. “According to our schedule planning, we will be ready for launch for this third mission to the ISS in the spring of 2012,” Menking added. The other ATVs are being produced at a rate of one per year.

ATV is Europe’s contribution to supplying the ISS. On a typical mission, ATV carries water, gases, fuel, food and scientific equipment to the ISS. Once its mission is over, ATV is loaded with waste, undocked from the ISS and burns up during a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. ATV is also responsible for regularly boosting the ISS to its operational orbit of around 400 km, performing attitude control for the ISS, and carrying out manoeuvres to avoid collisions with space debris.

Weighing in at 20 metric tons, ATV has a maximum net cargo capacity of up to 7 metric tons. The composition of this payload can vary depending on the mission: 1.5 to 5.5 metric tons of freight and supplies (food, research instruments, tools, etc.), up to 840 kilograms of drinking water, up to 100 kilograms of gases (air, oxygen and nitrogen), up to 4.6 metric tons of fuel for orbit correction and attitude control, and up to 860 kilograms of propellant to refuel the space station.

SpaceRef staff editor.