The ATV ‘Albert Einstein’, designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space, is the fourth unmanned European transport spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS).
ATV-4 is due to be launched on 5 June by a specially adapted Ariane 5 rocket from the European Spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana. Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for developing and building the ATV as industrial prime contractor to the European Space Agency (ESA).
The ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) 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, de-docked and burns up as it heads back into the Earth’s atmosphere.
With a total weight of nearly 20.2 tonnes, ATV-4 ‘Albert Einstein’ is the heaviest payload ever placed into orbit by an Ariane launcher. The ATV is also the smartest multipurpose spacecraft ever designed and built in Europe, with the mission to dock automatically to the International Space Station (ISS) at 28,000 km/h with a precision of less than 10 centimetres.
Airbus Defence and Space is also prime contractor for the Ariane 5 launcher, the reliable European workhorse designed and built for a large variety of heavy lift missions.