Airbus Defence and Space

First leg of the long journey to space

ATV-3 in Kourou

ATV-3, Europe’s next unmanned cargo carrier for the International Space Station (ISS), has completed the first leg of its long journey to space – sailing across the Atlantic.

ATV-3 ‘Edoardo Amaldi’, designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space for the European Space Agency (ESA), arrived in Kourou (French Guiana) on board MN Toucan, a French cargo ship normally used by Arianespace to transport Ariane rocket stages. It sailed for 13 days, leaving Bremen harbour on 12 August.

ATV-3 was unloaded on 25 August and transported to the Kourou Spaceport by road, where it will be prepared for its launch, scheduled for 2012.

Wolfgang Paetsch, Airbus Defence and Space’s ATV Project Manager states: “ATV-3 has arrived in Kourou exactly on schedule. The flight hardware is in good condition following its sea journey and is therefore still well on track for launch next year.”

The next steps at the Kourou Spaceport include setting up the flight hardware and ground support equipment (GSE) and then continuing ATV integration and testing prior to its departure for the ISS.

The ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) is not only the biggest, most complex spacecraft ever developed and built in Europe, but is also the first vehicle in the world designed to execute rendez-vous and operational docking in fully automated mode. With the retirement of the US Space Shuttle, the ATV, weighing in at around 20 tonnes with a wingspan of 22 metres, is the largest vehicle supplying the ISS.

It 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.

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 second ATV, ‘Johannes Kepler’, was launched on 16 February 2011 and docked successfully on 24 February 2011.

This third ATV is named in honour of the renowned Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi (1908–1989).

In the photo: The ATV-3’s two major components are shown during initial checkout activity in the S5C preparation hall: the Service Module, in the foreground; and the Integrated Cargo Carrier in the background (© Arianespace)

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