- The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) “Albert Einstein” has successfully completed the fourth ATV mission in a row to service the International Space Station (ISS)
- In the five-month period it was attached to the ISS, the ATV-4 supported the ISS attitude and orbit control, delivered tonnes of supplies including fuel, water, oxygen, air and cargo for the crew
- The “Albert Einstein” achieved a perfect undocking on 28 October 2013, followed by a fully controlled destructive re-entry into the atmosphere on 2 November 2013, with a new record set of 2 tons of waste removal from space
Following its successful docking five months ago, the most recent ATV in action – number 4, “Albert Einstein” – designed and built by Astrium, the world’s second ranking space company, has now successfully completed its mission to the International Space Station (ISS), from which it removed and destroyed a record amount of waste (around 2 tonnes) and thereby prevented potentially destructive debris in space.
The ATV-4 performed a fully controlled destructive re-entry into the atmosphere today, following its perfect undocking from the ISS on 28 October, and bringing the five-month mission to its conclusion. The ATV-4 provided the ISS crew with fuel and a full range of new goods – from food to parts destined to ISS maintenance and onboard scientific experiments – prior to removing and destroying waste from the ISS.
With this successful mission end, Astrium and its European partners have once again demonstrated that the multiple cargo loading capability and flexibility of ATVs makes them readily adaptable to evolving cargo and ISS needs. ATV-4 displayed an unprecedented level of accuracy in docking compared to previous ATV missions, and brought an exceptionally wide variety of cargo – 1400 items – to the ISS.
The ATV-4 mission, owned and operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), set off on 5 June from French Guyana, where Arianespace launched the space vehicle from an Ariane 5 ES (V213). ATV-4 also set a new record as the heaviest spacecraft (20,218kg) ever lifted by any Ariane launcher.
Weighing in at 20 tonnes, ATV has a maximum net cargo capacity of up to seven tonnes. The composition of this payload can vary depending on the mission:
- between 1.5 and 5.5 tonnes 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 tonnes of fuel for orbit correction,
- up to 860 kilograms of propellant to refuel the space station.
On August 1, the “Albert Einstein” had filled the “Zarya” ISS Functional Cargo Block with 860 kg of fuel. Refuelling took around an hour and a half to complete. Moreover, by the end of August, the supply vehicle had transferred a total of 33 kg of oxygen and 66 kg of synthetic air to the space station.
On top of all the functions described above, the supply vehicle also serves as a fully inhabitable ISS module, offering the crew 45m³ of additional space in which to live and work. Previous astronauts have spoken of the ATVs as their preferred place to sleep, because the ATVs are much quieter than the rest of the ISS.
In addition to delivering supplies, ATV also carries out reboost manoeuvres to counteract the effects of atmospheric drag, which causes the ISS to lose altitude by as much as 100 metres a day. And if space debris threatens the ISS, ATV can carry out the requisite avoidance manoeuvres. It also carries out attitude control manoeuvres when other spacecraft approach the ISS. During its mission, “Albert Einstein”’s engines powered a total of 6 reboost manoeuvres that each keeps the ISS back up to its operational orbit.
Loaded with the liquid and dry waste, as well as redundant equipment, the European ATV burned up as planned during controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific. Throughout the course of its mission, ATV-4 managed to clock up some four million kilometres.
At the same time that “Albert Einstein” finished its mission, “Georges Lemaître”, the fifth and final European ATV built by Astrium arrived at the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, demonstrating the ability of Astrium to manage the production of the ATV on a regular basis and on schedule. Astrium was commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA) as systems leader within a European consortium to design and manufacture the ATVs.
Together, pioneering excellence
Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the second in the world. It is the only global company that covers the full range of civil and defence space systems, equipment and services.
In 2012, Astrium had a turnover over €5.8 billion and 18,000 employees worldwide.
Its three business units are: Astrium Space Transportation, the European prime contractor for launchers, orbital systems and space exploration; Astrium Satellites, a leading provider of satellite system solutions, including spacecraft, ground segments, payloads and equipments; Astrium Services, the Space services partner for critical missions, providing comprehensive fixed and mobile solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, and bespoke geo-information services, worldwide.
Astrium is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2012, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of €56.5 billion and employed a workforce of over 140,000.