ATV-2 ferry ship: a successful launch with full load of supplies inside its Thales Alenia Space-built cargo module
Cannes - European Space Agency’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2) has been launched yesterday evening by Arianespace from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Christened Johannes Kepler, in honour of the German astronomer and mathematician, the second ATV flight model will rendezvous and dock with the orbiting International Space Station in fully automatic mode after eight days of autonomous flight. The Johannes Kepler ATV will deliver experiments, equipment, spare parts and propellant as well as food and oxygen for the astronauts currently onboard the ISS.
Thales Alenia Space plays a significant role in the development and production of this highly sophisticated vehicle. On behalf of Astrium Space Transportation, the ATV prime contractor, Thales Alenia Space is responsible for the design and manufacturing of the ATV’s Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), passive thermal control system, electrical power unit, Telemetry Tracking and Control (TTC) communication equipment and support to system tests . Thales Alenia Space also took part in the integration and testing of the whole space vehicle and in the launch campaign in Kourou.
The ICC, built by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, comprises a 4.6-meter diameter and 4-meter long pressurized cylindrical module that weighs 4 tons. It incorporates an integrated docking system to the ISS at one end, and the propellant refuelling system at the other. These two components - derived from systems already operational on the Russian Progress and Soyuz vehicles - were provided by Russian company RSC-Energia.
“Once again Thales Alenia Space is a key partner in a space mission of great technical complexity and strategic importance. The Johannes Kepler ATV is the second in a series of five flight models currently in production at our Turin facilities. Three more units will be delivered through the year 2013,” stated Luigi Pasquali, President and CEO of Thales Alenia Space Italia. “We have been working on the ATV program since the year 2000, heading a team of eight European, U.S. and Russian subcontractors. Several improvements are currently in an advanced stage of investigation with the aim to enhance the design in order to increase the transportation capacity for pressurized cargo, as well as the flexibility of use. Some of these upgrades are planned to be also implemented as retrofit kit on the third flight unit, Edoardo Amaldi, which was delivered to Astrium at the end of 2010.”
While docked to the Space Station, the ATV will be a lot more than a “container” for ferrying equipment and goods necessary to the life of the astronauts. It will become a temporary module of the orbital outpost. It will also have the fundamental task of providing propulsion for the orbiting structure. The Johannes Kepler ATV propulsion system will be used to maintain the Station’s orbit several times during its mission. The Johannes Kepler ATV will remain on orbit for three months, prior to de-docking from the ISS and a destructive re-entry into the atmosphere.
With five ICCs, three Multi Purpose Logistics Modules (MPLMs) - one of which has been turned into a Permanent Logistics Module (PMM) - the pressurized module for ESA’s Columbus laboratory, the Harmony and Tranquility node modules, the Cupola, and nine pressurized cargo modules for the U.S. Cygnus resupply ships, Thales Alenia Space is the leading provider for pressurized space in the ISS, on behalf of ESA, NASA, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), as well as European and U.S. industry.
About Thales Alenia Space
European leader in satellite systems and a major player in orbital infrastructures, Thales Alenia Space is a joint venture between Thales (67%) and Finmeccanica (33%). Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio embody the two groups’ “Space Alliance”. Thales Alenia Space sets the global standard in solutions for space telecoms, radar and optical Earth observation, defense and security, navigation and science. The company, which achieved revenues of Euro 2 billion in 2009, has a total of 7,200 employees located in 9 industrial sites in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium.
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