Bye-bye, ATV-4

4 June 2013

Engineers look on as the Ariane 5 launcher fairing is lowered over ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), the largest and most sophisticated space ferry to supply the International Space Station. The smaller dark cylinder visible inside the white fairing is ATV Albert Einstein, the fourth spacecraft in the series that will be launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana tomorrow.

This was the last time anybody on Earth will see ATV-4 directly and the last photograph of the spacecraft before it flies in space. Now fully enclosed and protected by the fairing, ATV has one short trip from the integration building to the launch pad.

Liftoff is set for 23:52 CEST (21:52 GMT), and one hours and four minutes later the vessel will have shed its fairing and separated from Ariane. By this time, it will have already circled Earth. ATV Albert Einstein will spend ten days performing checks and orbital manoeuvres, bringing it to an automated docking with the Station on 15 June.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will be among the crew waiting for Albert Einstein on the International Space Station. The space ferry is delivering the most diverse mix of cargo ever by an ATV, including microscopes, physics experiments, antennas, water pumps and toolboxes.

Watch the launch live on www.esa.int and follow ESA’s ATV blog for mission updates as they happen.

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