Processing is underway with the next Automated Transfer Vehicle to be orbited by Arianespace
Initial checkout has begun at the Spaceport for Europe’s fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which is to be launched from French Guiana by Arianespace on a servicing mission to the International Space Station next year.
The activity underway includes verifications of the ATV’s Service Module in the Spaceport’s S5 payload preparation building, where it has been joined by the resupply spacecraft’s other major spacecraft element – the Integrated Cargo Carrier.
Incorporated in the Service Module are the ATV’s propulsion systems, electrical power, computers, communications and most of its avionics; while the Integrated Cargo Carrier is dedicated to carrying the resupply payload to the International Space Station – with a maximum upload capacity of 6.6 metric tons.
This no. 4 ATV has been named after Albert Einstein, and it is scheduled for a liftoff in the spring of 2013 on Arianespace’s workhorse heavy-lift Ariane 5.
Arianespace is responsible for launching the ATVs for Europe, lofting the first in March 2008, followed by the two other in February 2011 and March 2012. The most recently-launched ATV remains at the International Space Station, with its undocking scheduled next week for an atmospheric reentry to complete another successful multi-month resupply mission.
Managed by the European Space Agency, the ATV program is part of Europe’s contribution to the International Space Station’s creation and operation. The Astrium division of EADS is the ATV’s prime contractor, leading a European industry team.