ATV-3 in Kourou showing fuel tanks. Credits: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG
Part seven of our series on national involvement in ATV production will look at Germany. Germany is heavily involved in ATV production as Astrium Gmbh is the prime contractor. Their task is to bring together all the elements mentioned in previous posts to make a complete spacecraft that is ready for launch. Astrium is involved in the organisation, building, testing and is the main point of contact with ESA.
All three Astrium sites in Germany are involve in ATV production: Bremen, Lampoldshausen and Friedrichshaven. In addition, Astrium subsidiaries have worked on engineering the propulsion bay and avionics bay as well as system integration. Astrium included a Fault Tolerant Computer on ATV that does not crash even if two separate faults occur. If only they were available as a desktop computers! A similar system has been running on the International Space Station since 2000.
ATV thruster. Credits: Astrium
The Fault Tolerant Computer drives another Astrium product, the Propulsion Drive Electronics that send commands to ATV’s thrusters. Astrium also delivers the 28 220N engines themselves capable of reaching temperatures up to 1100°C when firing.
On the inside, Astrium contributed to the Environmental Control Life Support Systems making sure that astronauts can breathe safely when they venture into ATV’s pressurised module.
Lastly Astrium supplies the equipment to handle ATV propellant. A very hazardous undertaking, getting ATV ready for the trip to space is not the same as a visit to the local petrol station. Filling ATV’s tanks with tonnes of fuel takes over three weeks to complete using specific safety equipment. Astrium sends a special team to set up the Fuel Ground Support Equipment before more technicians arrive at Europe’s spaceport to actually fill her up.
ATV-3 fueling. Credits: ESA/CNES/Arianespace/Optique Video du CSG–S. Martin
The propellant for ATV needs to be stored somewhere and that is where MT-Aerospace from Augsburg comes in. Specialised in light-weight structures this company delivers fuel tanks without weighing ATV down. Their expertise contributed to the load-carrying structure that makes ATV.
Jena Optronik supplies docking sensors for the ATV mission. As a subcontractor to the French Sodern they supplied the Videometer that is used used to judge distance and position between ATV and the International Space Station. ATV sends short flashes of laser light that are reflected by mirrors on the Space Station. By measuring the time it takes to receive the reflected beams of light it is possible to work out the vehicles relative speed. To judge ATV’s angle Jena Optronik also supplies a tongue-twister of an instrument: the telegoniometer. Jena Optronik has proven its system on Shuttle flights to Russian space station Mir and also on the Japanese HTV and American Cygnus vehicles .
TESAT spacecom supplies quality control for all the parts used in ATV. Work on this started as far back as 1999 but that is hardly surprising when you consider that over one million electronic parts that are delivered to make up ATV. TESAT makes sure that each part will work as it should.
ATV-4 proudly showing off its solar arrays as it approaches ISS. Credits: ESA/NASA
AZUR Space supplies the individual solar cells that make up ATV’s solar panels. They are shipped to The Netherlands where Dutchspace weaves them into the 20-m solar arrays.
OHB Gmbh developed and tested ATV’s shield, known as the MDPS, or Meteoroid and Debris Protection System. The MDPS was discussed in the ATV Made in Switzerland blog post, its main purpose being to protect the spacecraft from objects hitting it at high speed while travelling through space.
ATV cabling. Credits: OHB
OHB also takes care of the daunting task of organising the cables on ATV. With roughly five kilometres of wires and cables connecting ATV’s computers with its valves, motors and relays you can imagine that things could quickly get messy. At our homes and at work monitors, mice, keyboards and internet cables quickly become tangles behind our desks, with mice often getting unplugged instead of external hard drives. This error is not an option on ATV, luckily OHB is on the job.
Thumbs up! ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano confirms ATV-4 air and systems work perfectly after docking with ISS. Credits: ESA/NASA