Another record-breaking Ariane 5 success for Arianespace: ATV Albert Einstein is on its way to the International Space Station
Ariane 5 “flexed its muscle” today with another record-setting Arianespace heavy-lift mission that orbited Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) for servicing of the International Space Station.
Arianespace’s workhorse launch vehicle lifted off from the Spaceport precisely at 6:52 p.m. local time in French Guiana, which was the necessary timing for its ATV passenger’s orbital phasing to dock with the crewed space station facility.
Ariane 5 lifts off with its heaviest payload ever – ATV Albert Einstein – at the start of the workhorse vehicle’s 69th launch from French Guiana.
Ariane 5 delivered a total lift performance of 20,252 kg., which included 19,887 kg. for ATV – making this resupply spacecraft the largest payload ever to be orbited by an Ariane launcher.
“Bravo Europe! Bravo Ariane 5! Bravo ESA! Arianespace Flight VA213 orbits ATV Albert Einstein as a record-setting heavyweight payload,” tweeted Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël immediately following confirmation of the Automated Transfer Vehicle’s successful deployment.
Today’s mission – designated Flight VA213 in Arianespace’s numbering system – was one of five parallel launch campaigns at the Spaceport. The others consist of the VS05 medium-lift Soyuz launch with four connectivity satellites for O3b Networks, scheduled for liftoff on June 24; Ariane 5 Flight VA214 set in July with the Alphasat and INSAT-3D satellites; and one additional flight each of an Ariane 5 and Soyuz (VA215 and VS06, respectively), both of which are in their early preparation stages.
Flight VA213 used an Ariane 5 ES version equipped with a storable propellant upper stage, with a flight time of just over one hour. During the mission, the upper stage performed two burns that were separated by a ballistic coast phase, after which the ATV was injected into a circular orbit.
“I am delighted with this success, the 69th launch of an Ariane 5 and – as importantly – the 55th consecutive success for this launcher, which continues to set records not only for reliability, but also for its availability – as demonstrated once again with a perfect countdown this evening,” added the Arianespace Chairman and CEO Israël in comments from the Spaceport’s control room.
Ariane 5’s accuracy was once again demonstrated by Flight VA213, with the following parameters measured just prior to the ATV’s orbital injection:
– Apogee: 259.5 km. for a nominal target of 260.0 km.
– Inclination: 51.59 deg. for a nominal target of 51.61 deg.
The ATV orbited by Ariane 5 is named after German-born physicist Albert Einstein, and is loaded with cargo that includes scientific experiments, water, gases, propellant, spare parts, food and supplies. Certain elements of its cargo are being delivered on behalf of other international partners involved in the orbital station, and include items for the U.S. NASA and Japanese JAXA space agencies. Following its in-orbit checkout, the ATV spacecraft is scheduled to make an automatic docking at the International Space Station on June 15.
The European Space Agency manages the ATV program, with an Astrium-led industry consortium responsible for producing the resupply spacecraft. Arianespace has launched all four of the ATVs orbited to date, with the previous three resupply craft lofted by Ariane 5s in March 2008, February 2011 and March 2012.
Today’s success is the third Arianespace mission in 2013 from the Spaceport in French Guiana. It follows the Ariane 5 launch that orbited the Amazonas 3 and Azerspace/Africasat-1a telecommunications platforms on February 7 and the first lightweight Vega mission performed under Arianespace’s operational responsibility, which took place May 7 with the Proba-V, VNREDSat-1 and ESTCube-1 passengers. In addition, the Starsem affiliate of Arianespace conducted a medium-lift Soyuz flight from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on February 6, lofting six Globalstar second-generation satellites.