ESA's space freighter ATV Albert Einstein will be the heaviest spacecraft ever launched into space by an Ariane rocket when it lifts off to the International Space Station on 5 June.
Albert Einstein is the fourth in the five-vessel Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)-series of space cargo freighters and is undergoing final integration and cargo loading at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou.
It will launch on board an Ariane 5 ES launcher, delivering over 2500 kg of dry cargo to the International Space Station. It will also haul fuel, water, and oxygen to space, as well as carrying its own fuel to reboost the Station's orbit.
The total mass of ATV Albert Einstein with all its cargo is 20 235 kg, making this spacecraft the heaviest ever lofted into orbit by an Ariane rocket, beating the previous Ariane launch record by over 500 kg set last year by its predecessor ATV Edoardo Amaldi.
Most diverse cargo ever
"ATV-4 is carrying the most diverse-ever cargo mix – around 1400 different items – ranging from food, spare parts, crew supplies and clothing to scientific experiments and other vital items," says Alberto Novelli, ATV-4 mission manager.
"Launch is scheduled for 5 June on Ariane flight VA213, which would line us up for docking with the International Space Station on 15 June."
Teams from ESA, Arianespace and Astrium, the vessel's builder, have been working at Kourou on an intense pre-launch campaign that began the moment the two halves of ATV vessel arrived in French Guiana last September.
The spacecraft has been checked out, the two halves joined into one and fuelling is underway. ATV Albert Einstein will be hoisted to the top of its Ariane launcher in May.
Late-load cargo can be added just two weeks before launch, this year, around 620 kg of ‘last-minute’ items are expected to be shipped to the Space Station.
"Late loading offers flexible options to our partners to include critical items needed on the Space Station closer to the actual launch date" says Charlotte Beskow ESA's acting launch campaign manager in Kourou.
In parallel, the joint ESA/French space agency (CNES) flight control team at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France has been doing intensive training and simulations for the mission's flight phases.
"The operations teams have achieved a high degree of readiness, and we are looking forward to pass a number of milestones between now and launch," says Alberto.
"These include a series of readiness reviews with our partners in May and a final launch readiness review early in June. We are confident that our teams are ready. ATV Albert Einstein is shaping up to be a great mission."