ATV-4 ‘Albert Einstein’ is the heaviest ever payload for Ariane

29 May 2013

  • Astrium is prime contractor for both the ATV and the Ariane 5 launcher
  • Fourth European ATV space freighter by Astrium to be launched to the ISS by an Ariane 5 on 5 June
  • At nearly 20.2 tonnes, it will be the heaviest ever payload for Ariane
  • 7 tonnes payload includes fresh supplies of lasagne, parmesan and tiramisu

Astrium, Europe’s leading space technology company, is preparing ATV-4 for launch. On 5 June 2013, the unmanned resupply spacecraft, named after the physicist Albert Einstein, is to be launched on a European launcher Ariane 5 ES from the European Spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) to the International Space Station, to begin its five-month-long mission. Astrium is the industrial prime contractor for both the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) and the Ariane 5 European launcher.

With a total weight of nearly 20.2 tonnes, ATV-4 ‘Albert Einstein’ is the heaviest payload ever placed into orbit by an Ariane launcher. The ATV is also the smartest multipurpose spacecraft ever designed and built in Europe, with the mission to dock automatically to the International Space Station (ISS) at 28,000 km/h with a precision of less than 10 centimetres.

The production phase of the ATV units is currently running precisely according to schedule: the ATV-4 is now integrated on the launcher and is ready for the launch. Its cargo compartment (Integrated Cargo Carrier or ICC) is loaded to capacity, transporting almost 7 tonnes of payload in total to the International Space Station. Over the last few weeks, ‘Albert Einstein’ has been fuelled and has passed over an extensive series of tests. The ATV-4 is due to dock to the ISS on 15 June. The ATV 5 ‘Georges Lemaître’ (scheduled for launch in mid-2014) is currently undergoing its first system acceptance tests in Astrium in Bremen.

In total, 2.6 tonnes of freight were packed into 209 bags, 605 kg of which belong to what is known as the ‘late cargo’, which is loaded just two weeks before the launch. Late cargo refers to items that cannot be stored for an extended period of time, such as perishable goods. With 1,400 individual items, it is the largest assortment of goods ever taken to the ISS. In addition to pyjamas, toothbrushes, t-shirts, socks and essential equipment, astronauts will enjoy peanut butter, waffles, strawberries, lasagne, parmesan, tiramisu and even macadamia nuts as well as months’ supplies of food carried to the space station.

ATV’s propulsion tanks are filled with near 4.8 tonnes of propellant needed to dock to the ISS, as well as to control the ISS orbit and attitude. ATV carries in addition 860 kg of propellant for refuelling the ISS. The ATV will also carry water (565 kg) and oxygen (100 kg) to the station.

Besides everyday items, spare parts, gases and propellant, the ATV-4 will also transport a new experiment for the Fluid Science Lab (FSL) developed by Astrium at the University City of Friedrichshafen: FASES (Fundamental and Applied Studies in Emulsions Stability). The aim of FASES is to explore the behaviour of emulsions under zero-gravity conditions. Emulsions play a major role in many areas of industry, such as food production, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and also the oil industry.

Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, is responsible for developing and building the ATV as industrial prime contractor to the European Space Agency (ESA). The production of the ATV units – as well as mission preparation and operations support – is covered by the Exploitation Contract which governs the operation and provision of the European components of the ISS. Following the successful missions conducted by the development stage ATV ‘Jules Verne’, ESA contracted Astrium to produce four additional ATV units. ‘Albert Einstein’ ATV will be the fourth resupply spacecraft to make its way to the ISS.

The next challenge will be to develop the MPCV-ESM (Multipurpose Crew Vehicle – European Service Module) for the American ‘Orion’ capsule, and Astrium is up to the task thanks to its extensive experience in developing and implementing orbital and manned space systems, such as Spacelab, EURECA, Columbus and ATV. Decisions from the ESA Ministerial Council meeting in November 2012 laid the crucial groundwork for this and placed European space travel on this exciting new course.

Astrium is – at the same time – prime contractor for the Ariane 5 launcher, the reliable European workhorse designed and built for a large variety of heavy lift missions. In its specific ES version, the launch vehicle will inject the ATV resupply spacecraft into a circular orbit at a targeted altitude of 260km with a speed of 7600 m/s.

The launcher will lift-off with a defined trajectory in a north-eastern direction over the Atlantic Ocean, drop the two solid rocket boosters, the payload fairings and later its cryogenic main stage. Ariane 5 will head towards Europe, fly over France, Luxemburg, Germany, Poland and later Ukraine and Russia. After about one hour, ATV ‘Albert Einstein’ will be separated from the EPS stage (storable propellant stage) of the launcher which will safely enter into its passivation phase in the Pacific Ocean, whereas the ATV will continue to travel autonomously towards the ISS.

Ariane 5 is developed, produced and adapted to each specific mission by Astrium acting as industrial prime contractor managing a highly professional European supply chain for equipments and stages and their integration in French Guiana. Main components comprise the EPC main stage with its Vulcain 2 engine, the two boosters and the EPS upper stage with its Aestus engine.


About Astrium

Together, pioneering excellence

Astrium is the number one company in Europe for space technologies and the third 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.


Press contacts:

Jeremy Close
Media Relations UK
Astrium United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 1 438 77 3872
Gregory Gavroy
Astrium France
Media Relations France
Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32
Ralph Heinrich
Media Relations Germany
Airbus Defence and Space Germany
Tel.: +49 89 60 73 39 71
Fax: +49 89 60 78 53 39
Francisco Lechon
Media Relations Spain
Airbus Defence and Space Spain
Tel.: +34 91 5 86 37 41
Fax: +34 91 5 86 37 82


Press Release




You want to discover the latest innovation within the EADS Group? You can find out via in-depth articles, videos and interactive graphics in "Up" magazine. Read the latest issue DISCOVER EADS IN UP MAGAZINE