Airbus Defence and Space

ATV-4 Albert Einstein en route to Kourou

• ATV-4 “Albert Einstein” leaves Airbus Defence and Space’s Bremen site for European spaceport in Kourou
• Airbus Defence and Space built ATV is the world’s largest supply spacecraft for the ISS
• The “Albert Einstein” cargo vessel will be launched to the ISS in spring 2013

31 August 2012 – The fourth European automated transfer vehicle (ATV) built by Airbus Defence and Space, called Albert Einstein, is en route to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Airbus Defence and Space, Europe’s leading space company, was commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA) with the development and production of ATV. In addition to production of the ATV supply spacecraft, the so-called Exploitation Agreement makes Airbus Defence and Space responsible for carrying out all services relating to operation of the European sections of the space station in various work packages. This includes mission preparation and execution, astronaut training, the on-going development of experiments and research facilities, the maintenance and logistics for all European ISS components and the ground stations, along with overseeing the communication system and data transfer.

“Following the retirement of the US Space Shuttle, ATV is the world’s largest supply spacecraft for the International Space Station, making it a vital part of ISS supply. ATV is Europe’s most sophisticated space transport vehicle with its innovative automatic and autonomous rendezvous and docking capability,” said Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, on the occasion of the shipping of ATV Albert Einstein.

“The technology and experience that Airbus Defence and Space acquired while developing the ATV represent a unique asset for Europe and strengthen its industrial competitiveness. Moreover, they form an excellent basis for further developments to help Europe maintain a leading position in the fields of exploitation and exploration,” added Michael Menking, Director of Orbital Systems and Space Exploration at Airbus Defence and Space.

“We will be making good use of our experience from the development and production of ATV and the Columbus space laboratory as we further develop and improve existing technologies for a whole variety of future missions,” he added. In June 2012, ESA awarded Airbus Defence and Space a contract valued at 13 million Euros to carry out two development studies on new space vehicles.

Like its predecessors, ATV-4 Albert Einstein is being transported by ship in three special containers from Bremen to the European spaceport in Kourou. At the same time, around 35 sea containers full of test equipment are joining it on its journey. Final assembly of the spacecraft will be carried out at the Kourou spaceport, including the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), the solar panels and the Separation and Distancing Module (SDM) which forms the interface between ATV and Ariane. Then ATV will then undergo further extensive testing on site before being integrated into the payload fairing, fuelled and connected to an Ariane 5. ATV Albert Einstein is scheduled for launch in spring 2013.

“We’re on schedule not only with our work on ATV-4,” said Michael Menking, “but also with the integration of ATV-5, ‘George Lemaître’.”

A typical mission sees ATV bringing water, fuel, food and scientific equipment to the ISS. At the end of its mission, ATV is loaded with waste and undocked from the ISS before burning up during a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. ATV is also used for regularly re-boosting the ISS to its operational orbit at around 400 km and for 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 seven metric tons. The composition of this payload can vary depending on the mission: between 1.5 and 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 four metric tons of fuel for orbit correction, and up to 860 kilograms of propellant to refuel the space station.

ATV is required to meet the safety standards for human spaceflight, and to this end double redundancy is built into its digital und electronic architecture. Moreover, a fault-tolerant computer – consisting of three computer modules – ensures the reliable and smooth execution of the ATV mission.


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third in the world. In 2011, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover close to €5 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide, mainly in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands.

Airbus Defence and Space is the sole European company that covers the whole range of civil and defence space systems and services.

Its three business units are: Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure; Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment;  Airbus Defence and Space for comprehensive fixed and mobile end-to-end solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security and broadcast satellite communications equipment and systems, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.

Airbus Defence and Space is a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2011, the Group – comprising Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 49.1 billion and employed a workforce of over 133,000.


Press contacts:

Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                         Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872

Gregory Gavroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                                      Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 51 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