60th consecutive successful Ariane 5 launch. 5th ATV another record payload for Ariane. ATV technology to be used in new space projects.
The 60th consecutive successful launch of the European launcher Ariane 5 sees European space transporter ATV “Georges Lemaître” safely on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). At exactly 8.47 pm (local time) on Tuesday evening, the duo took off from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. With a total weight of almost 20.3 tonnes, ATV “Georges Lemaître” thereby surpassed its four predecessors by being the heaviest payload ever to be launched into orbit by an Ariane. Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, is responsible for the development and production of the Ariane 5, and is also the prime contractor for the ATV for the European Space Agency (ESA).
François Auque, Head of Space Systems, said: “We would like to express our gratitude to Arianespace, which markets the launches and operates the range of European launch systems at the Guiana Space Centre, and to all our industrial and institutional partners, for the launch of the Ariane/ATV duo.”
“This is the 60th consecutive successful launch of an Ariane 5, reinforcing its position as the world’s most reliable commercial launcher and marking the epilogue of one of Europe’s greatest space successes. ATV is one of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever, able to dock automatically at 28,000 km/h with the accuracy of less than the width of a coin. But this is far from the end! Even when its mission in orbit is over, ATV’s technologies will benefit numerous other space adventures,” Auque said.
Although the ATV-5 is the final European space transporter to set out for the ISS, the technology and the expertise gained in developing the ATV will be used in new space projects. For example, Airbus Defence and Space is developing on behalf of ESA the service module for the American human spacecraft “Orion”. It is primarily based on ATV technology and will provide Orion with propulsion and energy, and, for the future human missions, with oxygen, nitrogen and water.
Additionally, the expertise gained in developing the autonomous rendezvous and docking system could, for instance, be used to “catch” non-steerable objects such as space debris or asteroids. The technology can also be used to land safely and independently on other planets.
Once placed into orbit at an altitude of around 260 kilometres, the ATV-5 deploys its four solar panels, with a wingspan of 22.3 metres, as well as an antenna for communication with the ISS. The ATV “Georges Lemaître” is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on 12 August, where it will be received by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. During the rendezvous with ISS, and a few days prior, during a dedicated ISS fly-under, ATV-5 will activate the LIRIS demonstrator (short for Laser InfraRed Imaging Sensor). LIRIS will acquire in-flight data necessary to prove new rendezvous technologies in particular with non-cooperative targets such as space debris. This experiment will be made possible by a suite of optical sensors developed by Sodern and Jena-Optronik under the Airbus Defence and Space ATV programme.
As with previous ATVs, following ATV Control Center authorizations, ATV “Georges Lemaître” will automatically perform the rendezvous manoeuvres in steps, starting about 40 km from the ISS using ATV and ISS relative GPS; then from 250m to the ISS, using its videometers, ATV-5 will align its docking system with the ISS Russian module, and then precisely control its attitude and position to the ISS docking port, with an accuracy of a few centimetres. Once the first contact has been made, the ATV-5 will automatically execute the mechanical and electrical docking procedure, which will connect the cargo vehicle to the ISS. The ATV-5 will then become a fully-fledged operational module, forming part of the Space Station.
Since 2003, Airbus Defence and Space has been the prime contractor of the Ariane 5 European launcher, one of the largest and most ambitious space programmes in the world, and oversees an industrial network comprising more than 550 companies (over 20% of them SMEs – Small and Medium sized Enterprises) in 12 European countries. Space Systems also manages the entire industry supply chain, from the production of equipment components and rocket stages to the complete integration of the launcher system in French Guiana, in line with the customer’s specifications. Thanks to the expertise the company has acquired and the investments it has made over the last decade, Ariane 5 has become the most reliable commercial launcher on the global market and has increased its geostationary orbit payload capacity by nearly two tonnes. A prime example of European know-how, this rocket system has been specifically designed to carry heavy payloads into space.
Airbus Defence and Space is a division of Airbus Group formed by combining the business activities of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military. The new division is Europe’s number one defence and space enterprise, the second largest space business worldwide and among the top ten global defence enterprises. It employs some 40,000 employees generating revenues of approximately €14 billion per year.
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