Europe’s two new ships progressing

by Chris Bergin

Testing is going well on Europe’s ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) and Vega – Europe’s newest additions to their fleet. Critical testing is being carried out on the two vehicles that will debut over the next two years.

The ATV will carry out re-supply missions to the International Space Station, while Vega will aim to capitalise on the small payload launch business.

L2 Resources: Over 30mb of new images of the ATV, taken by sources.
Related Article: ATV on track for 2007

Although half the size of the Ariane 5 ECA, Vega has an advanced on board flight system – as well as using existing Ariane technology. The intention is to use Vega alongside the Ariane.

The 30 meter tall rocket is set for its qualification launch at the end of 2007 – targeting a market of micro and mini satellites of between 200 to 2,500kg into Sun Synchronous orbits, Low Earth orbits and escape trajectories for use by scientific missions.

Heading towards that launch date target, ESA (European Space Agency) have carried out vibration tests at ESTEC in the Netherlands. A test fire of the P80 Solid Rocket Motor demonstrator is due to take place soon, following on from a similar test with the second stage Zefiro 23 motor.

The ATV – which will serve as an automated vessel, regularly launched by ESA to work alongside the Russian Progress re-supply ship – has passed another milestone, with the completion of a critical final phase of the automated rendezvous and docking system software.

‘For the first time, to replicate the Jules Verne ATV rendezvous, ATV flight sensors were used successfully in life-size rendezvous conditions, feeding measurements into the flight control computer. At the same time, a simulator calculates the dynamic motion corresponding to how the vehicle behaves in space,’ said ESA ATV engineer Stein Strandmoe.

‘A third system replicates physically this computation into a relative motion between the sensors, carried by an industrial robot, and their targets carried by a mobile platform.

‘The integration of all these systems into a closed-loop test, as we call it, worked exceptionally well from start of the rendezvous – at some 250 metres – all the way to docking.’

The ATV is set to make its debut flight in mid 2007, launching via an Ariane 5 launch vehicle. A full scale ATV is currently based in Holland.

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