Europe’s ATV-5 cargo ship has set sail on a 14 day journey to the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday. The final ATV mission began when the vehicle’s Ariane 5 ES carrier rocket launched the “Georges Lemaître” from the Guiana Space Centre, in Kourou, French Guiana at 23:47 UTC.
Arianespace’s latest ATV mission in support of International Space Station operations was designated as Flight VA219 in the company’s numbering system, and utilized an Ariane 5 ES version of the heavy-lift workhorse.
The ATV is named after Belgian physicist Georges Lemaître, carrying on the naming tradition of the European cargo hauler that began with “Jules Verne” in March 2008, which was followed by “Johannes Kepler” in February 2011, “Edoardo Amaldi” in March 2012, and last June’s flight with “Albert Einstein.”
ATV Georges Lemaître is Europe’s fifth, and final, Automated Transfer Vehicle for servicing of the crewed orbital facility.
It is also the heaviest-ever payload orbited by Ariane 5, with a liftoff mass greater than 20 metric tons.
As the ATV has the largest cargo carrying capability of all the ISS Visiting Vehicles (VVs), it also has the ability to perform ISS reboosts.
ATV-5 is carrying a large load of both internal (dry) and propellant (wet) cargo. Specifically, the pressurized Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) section will carry around 2,600kg of cargo, including food, crew provisions, and scientific hardware.
The Service Module (SM) is carrying 570kg of water, 100kg of gas (air and oxygen), 2,230kg of propellants available for ISS reboosts, and 860kg of propellants for transfer to the Russian Segment (RS).
For the ride uphill, Ariane 5’s ignition of the core stage’s singular Vulcain 2 engine resulted in engine health verification checks that took the countdown to T+7 seconds, at which point the twin Solid Rocket Boosters ignited – resulting in the near-instantaneous liftoff of the Ariane 5 rocket.
After clearing its launch tower, the Ariane 5 rolled onto a proper alignment, placing itself and its payload onto a 51.6 degree inclination to orbit, heading northeast out of the Guiana Space Centre over the Atlantic Ocean.
Each booster was responsible for delivering 1.45 million lbf at liftoff – for a total liftoff lbf rating from the SRBs of 2.9 million lbf.
Aiding the twin SRBs in the first 129 seconds of flight was Ariane 5’s core stage Vulcain 2 engine. This singular engine delivered 301,000 lbf to the stack.
During “Stage 0” flight, each SRB burned for approximately 131 seconds, or 2 minutes 11 seconds before burning out and separating from the rocket at T+ 2 minutes 18 seconds at an altitude of 61km.
After SRB separation, the Ariane 5 continued to push toward space under the singular power of the Vulcain 2 engine.
Eight minutes 53 seconds after liftoff, at T+9 minutes, the Vulcain 2 engine complete its shutdown procedures, and the core stage separated from the EPS (Storable Propellant Stage, or Etage a Propergols Stockables) at an altitude of 133 km.
The EPS – carrying 10 tons of monomethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide burned by an Aestus rocket engine capable of providing 6,160 lbf – ignited for the first of two ATV-5 orbital boost phases at T+9 mins 7 secs – exactly nine minutes after liftoff from French Guiana in South America.
The first boost phase lasted until T+17 minutes and 10 seconds, at which point a 45 minute ballistic coast phase took place.
Finally, 1 hour six minutes and 39 seconds after launch, ATV-5 separated from the EPS and began its cruise to the International Space Station.
However, the flight of the Ariane 5 will not be complete after the deployment of ATV-5.
At T+2 hours, 24 minutes and 27 seconds, the EPS’s Aestus engine fired again for 16 seconds to drop it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it burned up during reentry and thereby prevent itself from becoming a piece of potentially hazardous space debris.
ATV-5 is scheduled for a 14-day flight to the station, with docking to the aft port of the Russian Zvezda service module at 13:34 UTC on Tuesday, August 12.
(ATV-3 Docking Animation created from 70 hi res ATV-3 docking images acquired by L2 – LINK).
During its trip to the space station, the vehicle will fly four miles below the space station on Friday to test sensors for potential use on future European spacecraft before beginning the final phase of its rendezvous with the orbital laboratory.
Although this will be the last scheduled ATV flight, its legacy will continue in the realm of Beyond Earth Orbit (BEO), via hardware contributions as the Service Module (SM) for NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
The ATV hardware will debut on the Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) flight, which is now likely to take place in 2018.
Images: Via ESA, NASA, and L2).
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