The fourth European automated transfer vehicle (ATV) built by Astrium, called Albert Einstein
The fourth European automated transfer vehicle (ATV) built by Astrium, called Albert Einstein

Aug 31, 2012–Bremen,Germany (Techreleased) –The fourth European automated transfer vehicle (ATV) built by Astrium, called Albert Einstein, is en route to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Astrium, Europe’s leading space company, was commissioned by the European Space Agency (ESA) with the development and production of ATV. In addition to production of the ATV supply spacecraft, the so-called Exploitation Agreement makes Astrium responsible for carrying out all services relating to operation of the European sections of the space station in various work packages. This includes mission preparation and execution, astronaut training, the on-going development of experiments and research facilities, the maintenance and logistics for all European ISS components and the ground stations, along with overseeing the communication system and data transfer.

“Following the retirement of the US Space Shuttle, ATV is the world’s largest supply spacecraft for the International Space Station, making it a vital part of ISS supply. ATV is Europe’s most sophisticated space transport vehicle with its innovative automatic and autonomous rendezvous and docking capability,” said Alain Charmeau, CEO of Astrium Space Transportation, on the occasion of the shipping of ATV Albert Einstein.

“The technology and experience that Astrium acquired while developing the ATV represent a unique asset for Europe and strengthen its industrial competitiveness. Moreover, they form an excellent basis for further developments to help Europe maintain a leading position in the fields of exploitation and exploration,” added Michael Menking, Director of Orbital Systems and Space Exploration at Astrium.

“We will be making good use of our experience from the development and production of ATV and the Columbus space laboratory as we further develop and improve existing technologies for a whole variety of future missions,” he added. In June 2012, ESA awarded Astrium a contract valued at 13 million Euros to carry out two development studies on new space vehicles.

Like its predecessors, ATV-4 Albert Einstein is being transported by ship in three special containers from Bremen to the European spaceport in Kourou. At the same time, around 35 sea containers full of test equipment are joining it on its journey. Final assembly of the spacecraft will be carried out at the Kourou spaceport, including the Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), the solar panels and the Separation and Distancing Module (SDM) which forms the interface between ATV and Ariane. Then ATV will then undergo further extensive testing on site before being integrated into the payload fairing, fuelled and connected to an Ariane 5. ATV Albert Einstein is scheduled for launch in spring 2013.

“We’re on schedule not only with our work on ATV-4,” said Michael Menking, “but also with the integration of ATV-5, ‘George Lemaître’.”

A typical mission sees ATV bringing water, fuel, food and scientific equipment to the ISS. At the end of its mission, ATV is loaded with waste and undocked from the ISS before burning up during a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. ATV is also used for regularly re-boosting the ISS to its operational orbit at around 400 km and for carrying out manoeuvres to avoid collisions with space debris.

Weighing in at 20 metric tons, ATV has a maximum net cargo capacity of up to seven metric tons. The composition of this payload can vary depending on the mission: between 1.5 and 5.5 metric tons of freight and supplies (food, research instruments, tools, etc.), up to 840 kilograms of drinking water, up to 100 kilograms of gases (air, oxygen and nitrogen), up to four metric tons of fuel for orbit correction, and up to 860 kilograms of propellant to refuel the space station.

ATV is required to meet the safety standards for human spaceflight, and to this end double redundancy is built into its digital und electronic architecture. Moreover, a fault-tolerant computer – consisting of three computer modules – ensures the reliable and smooth execution of the ATV mission.