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Europe’s ATV supply ship docks safely with Space Station

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Eight days after launch, ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, completed a flawless rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station at 17:08 CET (16:08 GMT) to deliver essential supplies.

The approach and docking were achieved autonomously by its own computers, closely monitored by ESA and French space agency (CNES) teams at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, as well as the astronauts on the Station.

Although both ATV and the ISS orbit at 28 000 km/h, the relative speed during final approach remained below 7 cm/s and the accuracy within a few centimetres.

Johannes Kepler closed in on the ISS from behind in order to dock with Russia’s Zvezda module.

At close range, the 20-tonne unmanned spaceship computed its position through sensors pointed at laser reflectors on the Station to determine its distance and orientation relative to its target.

ATV’s docking probe was captured by the docking cone inside Zvezda’s aft end at 16:59 CET (15:59 GMT). The closure of hooks completed the docking sequence some nine minutes later.

“With this smooth docking, Johannes Kepler proves to be a great example of the wave of innovation ‘made in Europe’. We are more ready than [...]

ATV Johannes Kepler gears up for space journey

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ATV-2 is almost ready for launch on 15 February from Europe’s Spaceport. It will be the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the Ariane 5 rocket, making the 200th flight of the European launcher even more spectacular.

ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle space ferry, named after the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, is now fully fuelled, its oxygen tanks are filled and most of the cargo from ESA and NASA is placed inside.

Only last-minute cargo of up to 400 kg will be added two weeks before launch using a special access device.

While the first ATV in 2008 performed a series of demonstrations on its way to the International Space Station (ISS), Johannes Kepler will head directly to its destination.

The planned journey includes some extra days to allow for possible delays, but the docking has to take place on 26 February to meet the busy ISS schedule.

ATV will navigate, fly and dock to the Station automatically, but it will be monitored and commanded from the ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse, France. Despite its mass of about 20 tonnes, the ferry can manoeuvre itself to within a few centimetres.

During the [...]

Second ATV heading to Kourou for launch

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The second of ESA’s ATV automated cargo craft has been cleared for shipping to the launch site in Kourou. Its launch on an Ariane 5 to the International Space Station is scheduled for late this year.

ATV-2, named after German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, has undergone extensive system testing at EADS Astrium’s site in Bremen, Germany, over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for shipping. It will be dispatched to Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana in several sections, accompanied by 59 containers with test equipment. In Kourou, it will be assembled and extensively tested before being loaded with cargo and fuelled. The launch is now planned for the end of 2010.

“After an internal review of ATV Johannes Kepler, we have given Astrium ‘consent-to-ship’, which is an important milestone,” says Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA Director for Human Spaceflight.

“This demonstrates the ability of European industry under the lead of Astrium to provide the requested status of the vehicle on time and with the requested quality.”

“When the US Space Shuttle retires, ATV will be the largest vehicle supplying the ISS. Considering its technological challenges, like automatic rendezvous [...]

Second ATV named after Johannes Kepler

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Copyright ESA

ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has been named Johannes Kepler after the German astronomer and mathematician. Europe’s next unmanned logistics spacecraft is scheduled for launch to the International Space Station in mid-2010.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a German astronomer and mathematician who is best known for discovering the laws of planetary motion. Starting his career as a teacher in Graz, he later moved to Prague where he worked with the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Kepler’s work contributed greatly to the scientific and technical progress of Europe and enabled space exploration today.

This year is also the 400th anniversary of the publication of one of Kepler’s most influential works, Astronomia Nova. The choice of this key figure in astronomy is particularly fitting in 2009, the International Year of Astronomy.

“We are proud that Europe’s second ATV will carry the name of Johannes Kepler,” says Simonetta Di Pippo, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight. “A world-renowned European scientist, his name reflects how Europe’s role in human spaceflight and exploration is rooted in a long tradition of science and technological progress. The next ATV mission will be the confirmation of Europe’s commitment to and interest in the ISS for the years [...]

Emergency support for Jules Verne ATV successfully given by Artemis

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Artemis, ESA’s data relay satellite, successfully answered the call for emergency services from the ATV Control Centre due to anticipated outages at the NASA Space Centre in Houston, Texas.

Artemis is operated from ESA’s facility at Redu, Belgium which houses the spacecraft’s mission control centre and a Ka-band ground terminal with a 13.5-metre dish antenna. The most recent task performed by Artemis was communicating with Jules Verne, Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), a task it was sharing with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

“On 11 September, we received notification that emergency support needed to be given to the ATV by Artemis,” explained Benoit Demelenne, Head of Redu’s TT&C and Spacecraft Operations Unit. “Hurricane Ike was approaching the Johnson Space Center in Houston, which had to be evacuated. The ATV Control Centre requested emergency support from Artemis as the communications with ATV via TDRSS would be interrupted.”

In addition, explained Kris Capelle, ATV Mission Director, a Debris Avoidance Manoeuvre or DAM needed to be performed because some space debris would come too close to the ATV.

“For these operations, we needed some extended visibilities to follow up ATV behaviour. Because both issues came exactly together, [...]

Russian fuel flows in Jules Vernes veins

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Fuelling of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle has started at Europe’s Spaceport. ATV is being loaded with Russian refuelling propellant destined for the International Space Station. After a month of fuelling operations, the launch and maiden voyage of the first European resupply spaceship is scheduled for the second half of February.

Early this month, the 20-tonne Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) was transferred to the huge fuelling chamber within the giant S5 integration building at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Inside the fuelling chamber, the spacecraft was prepared for loading operations, which began as scheduled on 8 January and will continue until early February.

ATV moved to S5B area

Jules Verne is moved to the fuelling chamber In cooperation with ESA’s ATV project experts and Russian engineers on site, a dozen specialised technicians from Astrium sites in Bremen, Lampoldshausen (Germany), Stevenage (United Kingdom) and Les Mureaux (France) are in charge of these time-consuming and delicate operations.

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“We are pleased with how well the schedule is progressing so far. This week, as planned, two identical tanks on the ATV were successfully loaded with 296 kg of Russian UDMH (Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) which is the [...]

Europe and Russia: a 15-year partnership in human spaceflight

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Copyright ESA

ESA PR 16-2004. Fifteen years of fruitful cooperation in human spaceflight activities between Russia and the European Space Agency have set the stage for even closer cooperation.

“Growing together” is the theme of a symposium to be held in Moscow on Friday 2 April, an occasion for ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency, FKA (formerly Rosaviakosmos), to reflect on their shared achievements in human spaceflight over the past 15 years and their intentions for even closer cooperation in the short to long term.

The cooperation started with initial exchanges of information, small study contracts and some ESA experiments on Russian missions. It covered potential cooperation in the then planned Mir-2 programme, and grew into substantial training of ESA astronauts and flights to the Mir station in 1994 and 1995, which also saw the first extravehicular activity by an ESA astronaut, Thomas Reiter from Germany, during the six-month Euromir 1995 mission. It continued with the training of ESA astronauts as flight engineers for the Soyuz capsule and a number of short-duration flights to the International Space Station (ISS).

With Russia joining the ISS programme, cooperation was refocused, with the main emphasis on the Russian segment of the ISS. [...]