Welcome to the ISS, Albert Einstein!
18 June 2013
ESA’s ATV-4, Albert Einstein, completed a flawless rendezvous with the International Space Station on 15 June when it docked smoothly with orbital outpost at 16:07 CEST. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is now connected to the Space Station.
The 20-tonne ATV is the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by Europe. It flew autonomously and docked with the 420-tonne ISS with a precision of a few cm as both circled the Earth at 28 000 km/h.
“Such a gentle contact between a spacecraft the size of a double-decker bus and a Station 20 times larger is an amazing achievement,” said Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.
The rendezvous and docking were performed autonomously by ATV’s own computers, closely monitored by flight controllers at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, and by Luca Parmitano and his crewmates on the Station.
The ATV-4 is loaded with 2580 kg of propellant to perform regular reboosts of the Station. It can even move the entire space complex out of the path of hazardous space debris!
In its tanks, it carries 860 kg of propellant, 100 kg of oxygen and air, and 570 kg of drinking water, all to be pumped into the Station’s tanks.
In its cargo module, it carries more than 1400 items packed into 141 bags, including 2480 kg of dry cargo such as scientific equipment, spare parts, food and clothes for the astronauts.
During its four months attached to the Station, ATV will provide 45 cubic metres of extra crew quarters. On previous missions, the addition was welcomed by the astronauts as “the quietest place in the Station” and was often the preferred area for working.
At the end of its mission, scheduled for 28 October, ATV-4 will separate from the Station, packed with waste bags. The following day, it will be directed to burn up safely in the atmosphere during reentry over the South Pacific Ocean.