Wednesday, June 5, 2013

ATV-4 "Albert Einstein" Launches to International Space Station

The European Space Agency's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, Albert Einstein, has launched on an Ariane 5 rocket bound for the International Space Station.

The Ariane 5 carrying ESA's ATV named after the German scientist Albert Einstein, launched from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana at 10:52 p.m. GMT.

See the launch of the ATV by clicking .
Launch of ATV-4 Albert Einstein
credit: ESA

Ahead of its scheduled docking to the International Space Station on June 15, the spacecraft will begin ten days of health checks and orbital manoeuvres, bringing it to an automated docking with the station's Zvezda Service Module. Before ATV docks, the Russian Progress 51 resupply will undock- freeing up the docking compartment of the Zvezda Service Module. This is why it is taking Einstein ten days to arrive at the ISS instead of its usual five day launch-to-docking profile.

 Newly-launched Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano and ISS Commander Pavel Vinogradov will watch over proceedings as the ATV makes its way towards the aft end of the space station prior to its automated docking.

The objectives of this mission are to deliver 6.6 tons of cargo to the station, carrying items like water, pyjamas, toothbrushes and peanut butter for the astronauts on board, as well as other vital cargo to keep the station up and running. ATV has the largest cargo capability of all vehicles that visit the International Space Station. It is also worth noting that the Albert Einstein is the largest ATV that has ever visited the station. It is loaded with 2,380 kg of propellant in order to maintain the station's orbit over the course its time docked to the ISS. 

ATV-4 will remain docked to the station for the best part of half a year, and after about six months, it will undock from the station filled with a few tons of waste water, materials and equipment, before burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.