ATV-5 refuelling system checkout succesful

An update from ATV-CC's Marcus de Deus Silva: ATV-5's Refuelling System RECS (Russian Equipment Control System) checkout took place yesterday and was completely successful. This operation was the first part of the ATV refuelling sequence that transfers fuel and oxidiser from ATV to the International Space Station. The checkout operation involved ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse  sending commands to turn on the docking and refuelling system electronics on ATV. Once engineers in ATV-CC checked that the system was healthy, the Russian segment of the Space Station sent commands to ATV to activate its Refuelling Mode.

Further checks of telemetry were made to confirm that the ATV refuelling system is ready for the next step which is the refuelling system leak-check, that will take place Thursday 18 September.

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Today’s reboost complete

Update received this morning from ESA Mission Director Eric Conquet at ATV-CC, Toulouse.

Live from ATV-CC at 02:12 GMT (04:12 Toulouse time) here is the latest report on ATV operations.

ATV continues its mission in a very good shape and continues operating nominally. This was again shown tonight with the perfect execution of second ISS reboost of the ATV-5 mission. This manoeuvre was performed using ATV's Nos. 1 and 3 main thrusters (OCS thrusters), which were ignited at 02:08:00 GMT for 224 seconds to increase the ISS speed by 0.55 m/s with a propellant consumption of 74 kg.

Next scheduled operation will be the first refuelling sequence set for Tuesday, 16 September.

The Russian Service Module and ATV-5 seen looking aft from the ISS as the Station is oriented in a pitch-up attitude for Soyuz TMA-12M undocking. Credit: ESA/NASA

The Russian Service Module and ATV-5 seen looking aft from the ISS as the Station is oriented in a pitch-up attitude for Soyuz TMA-12M undocking. Credit: ESA/NASA



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ATV-5 thrusters turned off for Soyuz departure

ATV-5 during Soyuz TMA-12M departure. Credits: ESA/NASA

ATV-5 during Soyuz TMA-12M departure. Credits: ESA/NASA

Yesterday three International Space Station astronauts left their home to return to Earth in their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft. Steven Swanson, Oleg Artemyev and Alexander Skvortsov landed safely back on Earth at 4:23 CEST this morning.

When ATV-5 is docked with the International Space Station it provides propulsive support to help keep the Station flying as needed.

During undocking of the Soyuz TMA-12M, ATV-5 shut off its thrusters to allow the Space Station to enter free drift so the two spacecrafts do not interfere with each other. So, when ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took the picture above, ATV-5 was in an uncharacteristically dormant mode.

After the Soyuz spacecraft had departed and was at a safe distance ATV-5 propulsive support was naturally turned back on. Until the next Soyuz arrives in two weeks the Space Station will have just three astronauts to run the outpost. All part of the routine...

Soyuz TMA-12M landing. Credits: NASA

Soyuz TMA-12M landing. Credits: NASA

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ATV status update: aaah oxygen

ATV-5 docked with Station. Credits: ESA/NASA

ATV-5 docked with Station. Credits: ESA/NASA

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst let out the first of batch of oxygen from ATV-5’s storage tanks into the International Space Station’s atmosphere on 4 September. Around 20 kg of the 66.7 kg of oxygen ATV-5 ferried to the Station was released, increasing the Station’s atmosphere pressure by 13 mmHG (0.015 bar).

Although the Space Station recycles are large amount of its life support such as oxygen and water, regular supplies from Earth are required.

Steve, Aleksander and Oleg testing their spacecraft for their flight home. Credits: ESA/NASA

Steve, Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg check their spacecraft for their flight home. Credits: ESA/NASA

Alexander Gerst has also overseen a large part of unloading the dry cargo, transferring 1105 kg or around 41% off all the items that ATV-5 has in its cargo hold.

A transfer of fuel to the Space Station is planned for 24 September but first the Soyuz spacecraft with NASA commander Steve Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev will leave the Space Station, during which ATV-5 will not offer propulsive support.

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ATV-5 launch campaign (time lapse)

This time-lapse video shows the ATV-5 Georges Lemaître loading process and its integration on the Ariane 5 launcher before it was transferred and launched to the International Space Station from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 29 July 2014.

The fifth in the series of the largest spacecraft ever built in Europe is also the heaviest load an Ariane 5 has ever launched. ATV-5 carried almost 6.6 tonnes of supplies to the orbital outpost, including a record amount of dry cargo: around 2682 kg.

Georges Lemaître delivered experiments, equipment, spare parts, water, air and even artwork to the six astronauts living in space.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has been responsible for docking and unloading the cargo since ATV's arrival at its destination on 12 August 2014.

Credit: Directed by Stephane Corvaja, ESA and Manuel Pedoussaut, Zetapress Edited by Manuel Pedoussaut, Zetapress Music: Hubrid-Space

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A different kind of cargo transfer

An update sent in late today by Colleen Boggs, ATV Cargo Operations Engineer at ATV-CC.

The crew did a different kind of cargo transfer today by removing hardware related to the Laser Infra-Red Imaging Sensors (LIRIS) rendezvous experiment. This experiment was used for the first time on ATV-5 during rendezvous and docking. The LIRIS hardware stores raw data from rendezvous which will be analysed after return to ground.


This new experiment hardware includes the Lidar recorder, camera recorder, and camera power control unit, which are installed in one of the rack sectors typically used for dry cargo bags.

We created new crew procedures that involved reaching in with one hand between two rack shelves to disconnect cables and remove screws... sometimes where the crew cannot easily see!

So lots of pictures were incorporated into the procedures to help orient Alex Gerst, in addition to his on-ground training (done earlier) at EAC in Cologne. With the hardware removed, Alex taped up the loose cables left behind and put the items into bubble wrap bags for their return back to Earth. We will have two pieces of removed hardware full of data going down on the next Soyuz (38S) and one piece with SpaceX for ground teams to analyse.

We're looking forward to seeing pictures from the activity!

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A glimpse behind the scenes: the hard work that kept ATV clean

*Editors note: this blog post is an expanded version of the ATV cleaning article which first appeared here.

ATV-5 approaches for docking. Credit: Roscosmos/O.Artemyev

ATV-5 approaches for docking. Credit: Roscosmos/O.Artemyev

ESA’s latest ATV is among the most pristine spacecraft ever flown. Europe’s space freighter underwent a rigorous cleaning process to ensure the safety and comfort of the ISS crew upon its arrival in orbit.

“It’s an often overlooked activity, but an essential one,” explained Arnaud Runge, biomedical engineer, part of ESA’s  ‘ATV Disinfection, Cleanliness and Contamination Control’ team with Pierre Rebeyre chemist & Stephanie Raffestin microbiologist. One priority for the disinfection team has been to minimise microbial contamination – bacteria, viruses and fungi – within the spacecraft, especially considering that astronauts’ immune systems end up weakened by long-duration stays in space.”

In addition the ATV had to be kept clear of particulates both inside and outside. Exterior dust could have degraded instruments, such as the lasers helping to guide the automated docking process, while sharp-edged particles set floating internally in microgravity can be inhaled or caught up in eyes.

Alex inside the ATV for the first time after the hatch was opened. Credit: ESA/NASA

Alex inside the ATV for the first time after the hatch was opened. Credit: ESA/NASA

Last but not least, the many dozens of payloads that were crammed aboard the ATV had to be checked to see that they do not give off harmful ‘volatile organic compounds’ (VOCs) over the course of the spacecraft’s journey to the Station, as well as no potential dangerous micro-organisms.

Disinfection and Cleanliness campaigns have been carried out for all five of the spacecraft, with specialists from ESA’s Directorate of Technical and Quality Management working alongside the ATV programme team, Arianespace, Airbus and other ISS partner nations.

The procedures being followed have been continuously improved. So, for instance, while the workers outfitting ATV-1 dressed simply in gowns and hairnets, fully-covering ‘bunny suits’ incorporating face masks had to be worn by everyone coming within a set distance of ATV-5.

This is essential because the human body is itself a significant source of contamination: in the form of breath and sweat expelling microflora, as well as shedding hair and skin cells. People are even known to directly exhale harmful compounds such as formaldehyde.

Microbial cleaning

Microbial organisms reaching the closed environment of the Station would have posed a risk to crewmen and also, potentially, to structural elements. Russia’s Mir space station, towards the end of its 15-year lifespan, suffered an acid-producing fungal infection corroding plastic, glass and titanium surfaces.

Continue reading

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How the ATV hatch stays open

We checked in with Lionel Ferra, at EAC Cologne, and asked him for some background on a couple of his recent tweets:


Lionel sent in today's guest post, describing details on how the hatch procedures have involved during the ATV missions.

What is so peculiar about the way ATV-5 hatch was fixed by Alexander Gerst? Over the course of five ATVs, we have developed and upgrade several times the On-board Data Files (ODF), or procedures. Those documents are user manuals for any equipment on board, from operating an experiment to docking ATV.

A part of the attached phase procedure for ATV is to permanently fix the hatch so that the crew can enter and exit ATV easily while enabling a quick closure in case we experience an emergency on board ISS or if it has to be closed for planned operations like the Russian EVA of last week.

Initial ATV hatch fixation, here at the beginning of ATV-2 mission. Credit: ESA/NASA

Initial ATV hatch fixing, here at the beginning of the ATV-2 mission. Credit: ESA/NASA

Back in 2011, when ATV-2 docked (see hatch above), it was quickly discovered that the hatch fixing strategy adopted for ATV-1 was not sufficiently stiff. Any time the crew entered and exited ATV-2, the delicate conical part of the docking system – and thus the hatch – bumped on one of the rods at the front part of the pressurized volume.

What simply needed to be done was to stiffen that attachment with more Velcro or straps avoiding this tiny wobble movement.

Indeed, a small dent was observed on the ATV-2 docking system after a few weeks in orbit due to this. This metal deformation was per se not a major issue but could have had some consequences in case ATV-2 would have to undock and then redock. All ATVs have been programmed and ground teams trained to execute this (unlikely) manoeuvre.

Nonetheless, ESA Astronaut Paolo Nespoli was asked to figure out a way to 'rigidify' the strapping while still not hindering a fast closure of the hatch. This was extensively photographed and filmed for the ground teams so that they could update the specific section of the ODF to reflect this new approach from ATV-3 onwards.

ATV5 ODF Hatch Fix extract

ATV5 ODF Hatch Fix extract

For various reasons, the ATV-3 hatch did not show the same signs of wobbling, so this standard easy fix was sufficient, as well, for ATV-4.

But the ‘Paolo’s procedure’ remained as part as the normal operations (as the traditional ATV-1 fixing method might again be potentially wobbling – see figure above). For ATV-5, Alexander Gerst and his fellow crew mates attached the hatch like for ATV-2 (see figures below).

We still yet don’t know if the easy fixing done for all other ATVs would have been sufficient; this would be a typical question for the debrief session once Astronaut Alex Gerst is back on Earth later this year.

Current ATV-5 Hatch configuration, 29 August 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA

Current ATV-5 Hatch configuration, 29 August 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA

Current ATV-5 Hatch configuration, 29 August 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA

Current ATV-5 Hatch configuration, 29 August 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA


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ATV-5 reboost complete

Here is an update on today's ATV operations just delivered by Thomas Beck at ATV-CC.

Today's reboost of the ISS by ATV-5 has been carried out successfully. 

ATV's main thrusters (M1 and M3) were ignited today at 08:37:00 GMT (10:37:00 CEST) and burned for 179 secs using 58.7 kg of propellant. The manoeuvre increased the ISS velocity by 0.43 m/sec as measured by on-board accelerometers.

Note that the precise manoeuvre accuracy determination will be carried out by MCC-M (Moscow) under whose authority ATV reboosts of the entire ISS by visiting vehicles are carried out.

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Here’s the plan: ISS reboost 27 Aug

Tomorrow, ATV Georges Lemaître conducts the first full reboost of the ISS since arrival at the station on 12 August. (The reboost done on 14 August was just a test....)

Here are the planned parameters, send in by ESA Mission Director Thomas Beck at ATV-CC. Remember: these are just what's planned and the actual numbers may vary.

  • Date: 27 August 2014
  • Delta-v: ~0.4 m/s
  • Time of ignition (Tig): ~08:37 GMT / ~10:37 CEST
  • Duration: 5 minutes
  • Planed back-up slot, if needed: 29 August


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