Spaceflight Now Home





The Mission




Rocket: Ariane 5 ES
Payload: ATV 3
Date: March 23, 2012
Time: 0434 GMT (12:34 a.m. EDT)
Site: ELA-3, Guiana Space Center, Kourou, French Guiana
Docking: March 28, 2012 @ 2233 GMT (6:33 p.m. EDT)
Mission Status Center

Docking timeline

Launch story

Photos: Toucan view

Photos: Prelaunch views

Photos: Ariane 5 rollout

Launch timeline

Ground track map

Launch delay

ATV moved to launcher

ATV 3 fact sheet

Ariane archive




Mission Reports




For 11 years, Spaceflight Now has been providing unrivaled coverage of U.S. space launches. Comprehensive reports and voluminous amounts of video are available in our archives.
Space Shuttle
Atlas | Delta | Pegasus
Minotaur | Taurus | Falcon
Titan



NewsAlert



Sign up for our NewsAlert service and have the latest space news e-mailed direct to your desktop.

Enter your e-mail address:

Privacy note: your e-mail address will not be used for any other purpose.



Advertisement






Space Books






Huge orbital freighter arrives to resupply space station
BY STEPHEN CLARK
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: March 28, 2012


Bookmark and Share

Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle, the third in a line of five robotic cargo haulers, glided into the aft docking port of the International Space Station on Wednesday, delivering a heavy load of supplies, food, rocket fuel, air and water to keep the 450-ton complex running at full capacity.

Cargo delivered by European and Japanese resupply missions is crucial after the space shuttle's retirement. NASA is waiting on U.S. commercial logistics vehicles to begin flying this year to ensure the lab's crew continues churning out a steady flow of scientific discoveries beyond 2013.


Photo inside the ATV control center in Toulouse, France. Credit: ESA
 
As big as a double-decker bus, the 20-ton spaceship approached the space station with GPS satellite navigation and state-of-the-art lasers, which supplied precise range and positioning information to the ATV's on-board computers.

Visible only by its navigation lights, the craft appeared to hang in the blackness of space as it orbited on the night side of Earth, conjuring an image from a sci-fi production.

When the space station and visiting freighter passed into sunlight, the ATV's white thermal blankets went from dark, to orange to bright white. And the ship's X-shaped solar arrays appeared, resembling an X-wing starfighter from the Star Wars film franchise.

Docking occurred at 2231 GMT (6:31 p.m. EDT) over American Samoa in the Pacific Ocean. Less than 10 minutes later, the cargo craft's docking probe retracted, hooks latched, and electrical cables were connected to make the vehicle part of the space station.

"The contact was very soft," one of the space station astronauts radioed mission control in Moscow. "We didn't even feel it."

The ATV was closing on the space station at a glacial 2 inches per second in the final moments before docking.

"We congratulate everyone on the ground with a very successful docking," one station resident said.

"It sure is nice to have ATV 3 on-board," radioed Dan Burbank, commander of the space station.


ATV 3 approaches the space station. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
 
Named Edoardo Amaldi after an Italian physicist and space pioneer, the resupply freighter will stay at the space station until late summer. Edoardo Amaldi is the third Automated Transfer Vehicle built by EADS Astrium for the European Space Agency.

After Edoardo Amaldi and previous ATV missions in 2008 and 2011, two more cargo freighters are under construction for launch in 2013 and 2014. Each mission costs about 450 million euros, or approximately $600 million.

"No one should consider that this smooth and gentle docking between these two giant spacecraft is either an easy or routine task," said Thomas Reiter, ESA's director of human spaceflight and operations. "The technologies we have demonstrated in operational conditions with the ATVs have a tremendous potential for future human spaceflight and exploration missions."

The space station crew planned to open the hatch leading into Edoardo Amaldi on Thursday and test the atmosphere inside the craft's pressurized module. Unloading of 4,800 pounds of fresh food, clothing, crew personal packages, experiments and spare parts will begin Friday, according to NASA.

"There are about 160 cargo bags of different sizes, so it's really a mix of everything," said Massimo Cislaghi, ESA's ATV 3 mission manager. "There are crew supplies, there are spare parts, experiments, everyday items."

It will take more than 80 hours to remove all the equipment packed inside the ATV's cargo carrier and restow the cabin with garbage for disposal.

The space station crew and ground controllers will also transfer 220 pounds of oxygen and air, 75 gallons of water, and 1,900 pounds of rocket propellant for the lab's Russian segment.

The ATV's main cargo-carrying compartment has a volume of nearly 1,600 cubic feet. Hatches between the Zvezda service module and Edoardo Amaldi should remain open throughout the craft's stay. The ATV is scheduled to depart around Aug. 27, but the date could change.

STS-134 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Endeavour is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-134. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Final Shuttle Mission Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The crew emblem for the final space shuttle mission is now available in our store. Get this piece of history!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Apollo Collage
This beautiful one piece set features the Apollo program emblem surrounded by the individual mission logos.
 U.S. STORE

STS-133 Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

The final planned flight of space shuttle Discovery is symbolized in the official embroidered crew patch for STS-133. Available in our store!
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Anniversary Shuttle Patch

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!

This embroidered patch commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Program. The design features the space shuttle Columbia's historic maiden flight of April 12, 1981.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

Mercury anniversary

Free shipping to U.S. addresses!


Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alan Shephard's historic Mercury mission with this collectors' item, the official commemorative embroidered patch.
 U.S. STORE
 WORLDWIDE STORE

INDEX | PLUS | NEWS ARCHIVE | LAUNCH SCHEDULE
ASTRONOMY NOW | STORE

ADVERTISE

© 2014 Spaceflight Now Inc.