Thursday, February 24, 2011

STS-133 Shuttle Discovery's final voyage

Liftoff of Shuttle Discovery @ 21:53:25 GMT, making one last trip to orbit.

Go Discovery Go!

Europe's ATV-2 supply ship arrives at the Space Station

ESA's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, completed docking with the Zvezda’s aft end cone of the International Space Station today at 16:08 GMT delivering fresh equipment, rocket fuel and oxygen to the orbital outpost.

Contact and Capture occurred at 15:59 GMT.

The arrival of the 20-tonnes unmanned spaceship occurred a couple of hours before NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery STS-133 was cleared for blastoff on its last orbital voyage before retirement. Liftoff is planned for 21:50 GMT from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Controlled and monitored by the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, as well as the astronauts on the Station the approach and docking were achieved autonomously by its own computers. Although both ATV and the ISS orbit at 28 000 km/h, the relative speed during final approach remained below 7 cm/sec and the accuracy within a few centimetres.

The docking of Johannes Kepler will be followed by Discovery's docking, carrying the European-built Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module, Express Logistics Carrier 4 and Robonaut 2, the first humanoid robot in space. With Europe's ATV-2 and Leonardo; the US Shuttle; Japan's HTV-2; two Russian Soyuz and one Progress docked simultaneously to the ISS, the orbiting laboratory will set a new record for a manned space vehicle - it will provide more than 1000 cubic meters of pressurized volume and will have a total weight of more than 500 tonnes.

Looking forwards to seeing Discovery's final launch!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

ESA and Arianespace launch the 200's Ariane 5

The flight of an Ariane 5 rocket, Europe's workhorse launcher for communications satellites and large government payloads, supports the second mission of an ATV, an unmanned resupply vehicle the size of a double-decker bus.

Today's launch was the 200th flight of the Ariane rocket family since its first mission on Christmas Eve 1979. It is the 56th launch of an Ariane 5 rocket, which has built up a reliable record of 41 straight successful flights since 2003.

Named for Johannes Kepler, the famous German astronomer and mathematician, the spacecraft carries 5,929 pounds of dry cargo in its pressurized cabin. The ship will also deliver 220 pounds of breathing oxygen and 1,875 pounds of rocket propellant for the space station's Zvezda service module.

The ATV-2 mission is occurring amid a flurry of visiting spacecraft at the international outpost. Japan's H-2 Transfer Vehicle, similar in size to the ATV, arrived at the space station January 27. A smaller Russian Progress 40P freighter also docked at the complex last month.

The shuttle Discovery will launch February 25, one day after the ATV's docking, to deliver an Italian-built stowage module with more fresh supplies.

Once Discovery arrives at the station, all of the program's existing servicing vehicles will be present at the complex. It will be the first and only time a space shuttle will be docked to the station along with Russian, European and Japanese spacecraft.

Below its is an extract of ATV-2 launch:

21:50:55 GMT
Liftoff of the Ariane 5 rocket with Johannes Kepler, Europe's second Automated Transfer Vehicle to supply the International Space Station.

21:51:55 GMT
Plus+60 seconds. The Ariane 5 has roared away from the South American jungle launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. The combined power generated by the twin solid rocket boosters and liquid-fueled main stage engine are propelling this heaviest-ever Ariane payload into the overcast evening sky. The rocket has gone transonic and is nearing the region of maximum aerodynamic pressure.

21:52 GMT
Plus+90 seconds. Burning more than 5 metric tons of fuel per second, Ariane is soaring into the sky bound for the International Space Station.

21:53 GMT
Plus+2 minutes, 26 seconds. The solid rocket boosters have been jettisoned from the Ariane 5 rocket's core stage. The liquid-fueled Vulcain main engine continues to fire to propel the vehicle and its satellite payload to space.

22:00 GMT
Plus+9 minutes, 20 seconds. Arianespace confirms the Vulcain 2 main engine of the first stage has shut down, the stage has separated and the upper stage's Aestus engine has ignited to send the ATV into a parking orbit around Earth.

22:03 GMT
Plus+12 minutes. Altitude is 146 kilometers and velocity is 7.2 kilometers per second.

22:08 GMT
Plus+17 minutes, 20 seconds. The Aestus engine has turned off after firing for about 8 minutes to place the ATV payload in a temporary parking orbit.
The Ariane is now entering a ballistic phase, in which the rocket will fly over Europe, Asia and Australia before restarting the Aestus engine to circularize its orbit with a high point of 161 miles and a low point of about 85 miles.

22:16 GMT
Plus+25 minutes. The Ariane 5 rocket has passed out of communications tracking sites in the Atlantic Ocean and in the Azores. Ground stations in Australia and New Zealand, along with NASA's TDRSS satellite network, will monitor the second Ariane 5 upper stage burn and the deployment of Johannes Kepler, ESA's second Automated Transfer Vehicle.

Source: ESA, NASA

ATV launches from Kourou, South America

The Automated Transfer Vehicle - 2 or ATV-2, named "Johannes Kepler" is on his way to the International Space Station. The first operational ATV launched some minutes ago on an Ariane 5 rocket at 21:50:55 GMT from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, South America.

After an eight-day journey, the spacecraft will rendezvous and dock to the aft port of the station's Zvezda service module.

ATV-2 will remain attached to Zvezda until early June, when it will undock and de-orbit for a destructive re-entry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.

Sources: ESA, NASA

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Today's ATV-2 launch delayed by 24-hours

The launch of the Automated Transfer Vehicle - 2 or ATV-2, named "Johannes Kepler", has been delayed, at least, until tomorrow.

There was an erroneous piece of data coming from the filling of the launcher therefore one of the status panel lights went red during the final countdown. Officials at the ATV Control Center in Toulouse said, "since we had no launch window, there will be no other attempt".

Today's launch of the Ariane 5 rocket has been postponed because there is only a single moment in time for liftoff each day to rendezvous with the International Space Station. Tomorrow's launch time for sending ATV-2 to the International Space Station will be 21:50 GMT.

This unplanned technical problem has stopped the countdown. The countdown has been halted at 22:09 GMT. It was at Minus-4 minutes and 1 second.

If the Ariane 5 does launch tomorrow, the result will be a 24-hour delay to Space Shuttle Discovery's planned liftoff next week. The sliding schedule would see ATV dock with the space station on February 24, a day later than originally scheduled because of today's scrub. Discovery would then launch on February 25.

Sources: ESA, NASA

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle ready for launch

ESA's latest Automated Transfer Vehicle, named "Johannes Kepler" is ready for launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday, 15 February at 22:08 GMT from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, South America.

Johannes Kepler is the first operational ATV, following the highly successful Jules Verne qualification flight in 2008. With a total mass of over 20 tonnes, it is the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe. The unmanned spaceship will deliver essential supplies and reboost the Station during its mission lasting three and half months. On this first operational mission, ATV-2 is carrying over 7 tonnes of payload, including 4534 kg of propellant for the reboost and attitude control of the International Space Station (ISS).

ATV is a highly sophisticated spacecraft, combining an autonomous free-flying platform, a manoeuvrable space vehicle and – when docked – a space station module.

To achieve an automated docking under the very tight safety constraints imposed by human spaceflight rules, ATV carries high-precision navigation systems, highly redundant flight software and a fully autonomous collision-avoidance system with its own independent power supplies, control system and thrusters.

About 10 meters high with a diameter of 4.5 meters, ATV includes a 45-cubic m pressurised module and a Russian docking system, similar to those used on the Soyuz manned ferries and the Progress resupply ships. With its solar wings deployed, ATV spans 22 m. Almost three times larger than Russia’s Progress, it can also deliver about three times the cargo load.

Once docked to the ISS, this propellant will be used by ATV’s own thrusters to raise the Station’s orbit periodically in order to compensate for the natural decay caused by atmospheric drag. It may also be used to move the ISS out of the way of potentially dangerous space debris that comes too close to the manned space complex.

ATV’s payload includes almost 1600 kg of dry cargo, 850 kg of propellant for Russia’s Zvezda module and 100 kg of oxygen.

Source: ESA