ATV-3, Europe’s next unmanned cargo carrier to the International Space Station, has completed its first long voyage – sailing across the Atlantic. It is now at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana to prepare for launch early next year.
With only a few months since the end of the ATV-2 mission, the ESA teams in Europe and Kourou are getting into high gear with the next craft: ATV Edoardo Amaldi.
Involving some 2000 highly skilled engineers across Europe, ATV-3 was reviewed and qualified in July by the ESA and EADS teams in Bremen, Germany for shipping to Kourou.
The review is important because, once the ATV is in Kourou, any major changes may affect the schedule.
MN Toucan, a French cargo ship used normally by Arianespace to transport Ariane rocket elements, steamed from Bremerhaven on 6 August.
After sailing across the Atlantic for 13 days, it arrived early this week to hold position near Devil’s Island off the coast of French Guiana to wait for a favourable tide.
Yesterday, the ship docked in Kourou harbour and unloading began.
Shipped in sections in several hermetically sealed containers, ATV-3 will be reassembled and tested before its cargo is be inserted and it is fuelled for its mission.
The launch campaign is scripted in great detail and spans 180 working days.
According to current planning, Edoardo Amaldi will carry about two tonnes of dry cargo, 285 kg of water and more than three tonnes of propellants.
ATV is the biggest cargo carrier servicing the Space Station and a vital element of ISS logistics.