Mission completed for ATV-3
5 October 2012
ESA’s ATV-3 cargo ferry completed its successful mission to the International Space Station (ISS) when it re-entered the atmosphere on 3 October 2012. After six months in orbit, Edoardo Amaldi burned up as planned over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.
ATV-3 was launched on 23 March by an Ariane 5 rocket and docked automatically with the ISS five days later. It carried nearly seven tonnes of propellant, oxygen, air and water, as well as scientific equipment, spare parts, supplies, clothes and food.
During its mission, the ATV performed nine reboosts of the Station’s orbit, raising the ISS higher to counteract the effects of atmospheric drag. The eighth engine firing occurred on 22 August and lasted for 40 minutes. It raised the ISS to a record-breaking 405 x 427 km above Earth! Before its departure, the crew loaded it with waste material.
The undocking of Edoardo Amaldi took place on 28 September. After five days of free flight, its engines fired twice to slow it down and send it onto a safe re-entry path. The ferry burnt up harmlessly in the upper atmosphere at 03:30 CEST. An onboard data recorder successfully collected data about its re-entry and break up.
Albert Einstein is the name of the next ATV. It has already arrived by boat at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It is scheduled for launch in April 2013. Another ATV, Georges Lemaître, is being assembled, with a launch expected in April 2014.