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ATV-2 ‘Johannes Kepler’ is en route for the launch pad

European space supply vessel gets green light for final preparation stage prior to flight to the ISS

The second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the European cargo ship for the International Space Station (ISS), has undergone extensive system testing at Airbus Defence and Space’s Bremen site in Germany over the last few months and has now been given the green light for the final preparation stage prior to the cargo spacecraft’s flight to the ISS. ATV-2 will now begin its journey to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

This second ATV, which is scheduled for launch at the end of this year, was named ‘Johannes Kepler’ in honour of the German astronomer (1571–1630).

The first ATV, dubbed ‘Jules Verne’, was launched by an Ariane 5 on 9 March 2008 and performed a perfect docking with the ISS on 3 April 2008. The ATV is thus the first European spacecraft to carry out an automatic rendezvous and docking with a space station.

The ATV ferries propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS. Once docked, it uses its own engines to correct the station’s orbit, compensating for a regular loss of altitude due to drag and contributes to collision and debris avoidance. At the end of its mission it is filled with waste, and burns up as it heads back into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Airbus Defence and Space is industrial prime contractor for the ATV under contract to the European Space Agency (ESA). There is no time to rest for Airbus Defence and Space’s integration team, as they are already hard at work on Johannes Kepler’s successor – ATV-3 ‘Edoardo Amaldi’!

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