Sen— Europe's next Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), named Albert Einstein, has entered the final phase of preparations ahead of its launch to the International Space Station.
The unmanned cargo ship is due to be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket from the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, in June.
The ATV, which arrived in Kourou last year, is now in the S5 payload prepartion building. On March 28 the cargo truck was moved from the facility’s S5C large preparation hall into its S5B high-bay area atop an air cushion pallet.
After final preparations the ATV will be moved to the spaceport's launcher integration building where it will be loaded into the Ariane 5 rocket which will carry the vehicle into orbit.
On launch the ATV will weigh 20,000 kg (20 metric tons) including 6,270 kg of supplies (860 kg of fuel for the Russian engines, 570 kg of water for the crew, 66 kg of air, 33 kg of Oxygen, 2,235 kg of propellant for orbit boosts and 2,506 kg of dry cargo).
Once it has arrived at the ISS, the ATV will remain docked for several months. The ATV's propellant supplies will be used to boost the station's orbit from time to time, or to perform emergency manoeuvres to avoid space debris. The cargo truck is also used to store trash. When the vehicle departs, loaded with rubbish, it will burn up in the atmosphere over the Pacific during a controlled re-entry.
The ATV is the fourth of five cargo freighters being supplied by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of a barter deal by which Europe provides the cargo trucks as part of its contribution to the running costs of the space station.
ATV Albert Einstein at the Spaceport in French Guiana being moved into the S5B high-bay area on an air cushion pallet for its final pre-launch preparations. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG - JM Guillon
The first ATV named Jules Verne launched in 2008. It was followed in 2011 by the second ATV, Johannes Kepler, and the third ATV, Edoardo Amaldi, which launched in March 2012. Edoardo Amaldi completed its mission in October last year.
The fifth and final ATV, due to launch in early 2014, has been named after Belgian astronomer and priest Georges Lemaître.
The ATV's automated flight technology so impressed NASA that the US space agency recently agreed to use the ATV's intelligent electronic systems for a service module attached to NASA's Orion space vehicle.