Airbus Defence and Space

Manned Space Missions Press releases

ATV-2 ‘Johannes Kepler’ is ready for launch

• 200th Ariane will bring ‘Johannes Kepler’ to the ISS (launch planned on 15 February 2011)

• ATV-2 is the heaviest payload ever to be carried by Ariane

Bremen/Kourou, 7 February 2011 – ‘Johannes Kepler’, built by Airbus Defence and Space, is the second unmanned European transport spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS). It is currently in the final pre-launch phase at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, from where it is scheduled for launch on board an Ariane 5 rocket on 15 February 2011. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) 2 is completely integrated and fuelled and is currently in the Final Assembly Building attached to an Ariane 5 as its payload. Further tests on ‘Johannes Kepler’ had been carried out in the weeks running up to the launch date. These included combined testing of the interface between the launcher and the ATV, air quality checks in the freight module and pneumatic tests.

Weighing a total of 20.1 metric tons, the ATV 2 is the heaviest payload that Ariane has ever carried into orbit. The launch of ‘Johannes Kepler’ is also a highlight for another reason: it will be the 200th launch for Europe’s Ariane launcher, for which Airbus Defence and Space is prime contractor.

“We are proud to have built ‘Johannes Kepler’ and delivered it on time,” says Dr. Michael Menking, Airbus Defence and Space’s Head of Orbital Systems and Exploration. “ATV is currently the ‘best spaceflight robot’ thanks to its ability to dock automatically with the ISS at around 28,000 km/h. Optimising cargo capacity is one of our main priorities since ATV is primarily used to supply the ISS. Further features, such as automatic rendezvous and docking with the ISS along with the associated innovative technology, make ATV the most sophisticated cargo spacecraft ever built in Europe.”

ATV’s mission is to bring more than 7.1 metric tons of freight to the ISS, including 850 kilograms of fuel for the space station, 100 kilograms of gases and more than 1.6 metric tons of dry cargo. ATV 2 ‘Johannes Kepler’ will also deliver food and clothing for the astronauts and various equipments for the maintenance and operations of the ISS. The payload also includes 4.5 metric tons of fuel for the reboost manoeuvre that will lift the ISS to an altitude of some 400 kilometres.

The cargo racks on ‘Johannes Kepler’ have been improved and are now even lighter. The facility for late loading has also been optimised, so that cargo can be loaded onto ATV shortly before launch. Just before the fairing was attached, the ATV freight module was stocked with 435 kilograms of last minute cargo – including perishable foodstuffs and personal items for the astronauts.

Given the extraordinary accuracy of the first ATV ‘Jules Verne’ launched and docked in 2008, ‘Johannes Kepler’ will not be required to go through any demonstration tests. The entire ATV system has been qualified. Jules Verne has demonstrated that the ATV flight control functions are perfectly safe and reliable. Therefore, ATV-2 will complete a shorter free-flight phase before approaching the ISS, thus enabling it to reach the ISS more quickly. The automatic docking manoeuvre with the ISS is scheduled to take place on 23 February 2011. Once its three-and-a-half month mission is over, ATV will be loaded with waste, undocked from the ISS and sent to burn up during a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading space company, is responsible for both the development and production of the ATV on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA). ‘Johannes Kepler’ is the first production unit, following on from the highly successful first flight model ‘Jules Verne’. To date, Airbus Defence and Space has received orders for a total of four ATV production units from ESA. 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.

The current production phase of the ATV units is on schedule: ‘Johannes Kepler” is ready for launch; ATV3 ‘Edoardo Amaldi’ (planned launch: beginning 2012) is currently in Bremen, undergoing flightworthiness and functionality testing for the first time as a fully integrated unit; integration of ATV4 (2013) has begun; and the first structures have been delivered for ATV5 (2015).

The extension of the ISS mission until 2020 presents Airbus Defence and Space with further opportunities in regard to both the provisioning and the operation of the ISS. For example, two further ATVs will be needed for supply operations between now and 2020. Airbus Defence and Space has already submitted a contract proposal for ATV6 and ATV7 to ESA.

You can download the short footage and video clip about ATV Johannes Kepler on:

A special dossier (articles, interview, videos…) has been created about the ATV ‘Johannes Kepler’ on:


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2009, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.8 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment, and Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive end-to-end value-added solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geo-information and navigation services worldwide.

AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119,000.

Press contacts:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                      Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                              Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                   Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                                 Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41