ATV-3 docks to the ISS

Edoardo Amaldi

Edoardo Amaldi

Destined to remain at the International Space Station for around six months, Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle 3 (ATV-3) Edoardo Emaldi has successfully docked to the ISS carrying a full load of cargo. The link-up took place at 2231hr UTC (11.31pm BST) on March 28. After an initial hatch opening the following day for installation of air recirculation ducts, the module will be accessed on March 30 for astronauts to start unloading more than seven tonnes of freight.

During the approach, wireless communication was shut down to prevent interference with the automatic rendezvous and docking systems and the cupola window shades were closed to prevent contamination of the exterior surfaces from exhaust plumes.

ATV-3 carries a total load of 4,395kg (9,700lb) of fluids and 2,200kg (4,850lb) of dry cargo. Of the fluids, 3,150kg (6,945lb) is ISS propulsion and 860kg (1,896lb) is refuelling propellant for Zarya. There is 285kg (628lb) of water and 100kg (220lb) or air on board. ATV-3 is carrying eight racks, two more than on previous ATVs, with an additional 600kg (1,323lb) of dry cargo.

Logistical manifests for the ATV allow for late cargo including ‘crew care packages’ and with 60 bags at a total 530kg (1,168lb) that is almost double the amount carried aboard ATV-2. Late cargo is loaded up through a special hatch and is a new ‘first’ for ATV but one which greatly increases the flexibility of loadmasters and enhances the advantage of responding to last-minute requests.

With extra living space, the ATV is one of the quietest places on the ISS, devoid of much of the background sound most people only experience on airline flights. To a long duration crew it can be like a walk in the countryside, except ATV has no windows to view the magnificent Earth below.

With fluid lines connecting the tanks behind the cargo section to mating devices on the ISS, transferring liquids is almost as easy as turning on a tap, with a gas control panel balancing the flow of oxygen into the station. There are three water tanks of which one carries 285 litres and the other two used for ‘brown water’ for cooling or waste management. These will also backfill with excess waste water from the station before ATV-3 is returned to atmospheric cremation.

Launched on March 9, 2008, ATV-1 Jules Verne was followed by ATV-2 Johannes Kepler launched on 16 February 2011. Launched on March 23 2012, ATV-3 Edoardo Amaldi will be followed by ATV-4 Albert Einstein in February 2013 and ATV-5 Georges Lemaitre in February 2014. The absence of the Shuttle for logistics resupply makes European and Japanese logistics modules vital for sustaining full operations at the ISS.

With an empty mass of 13,455kg (29,670lb) and a cargo load of 6,595kg (14,550lb), ATV-3 weighed 20,050kg (44,220lb) at launch and is the heaviest load lifted by Ariane 5. ATV-3 is expected to remain with the ISS until the end of August this year and will be at the station when Japan’s logistics module arrives.

The Editor (Spaceflight)

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