ATV: Made in America

ATV-3 approaches Station. Credits: ESA/NASA

A rare view of an ATV from behind showing its four main thrusters. Credits: ESA/NASA

Even though the last of the ATVs, Georges Lemaître, ended its mission last month we still have one more country to finish our ‘ATV-Made-in’ series: the United States of America.

American company Aerojet supplied ATV’s large 490-N thrusters. Each ATV has four of the model R-4D engines, which were delivered to Airbus in Germany for integration into ATV.

These engines derive from the thrusters that powered Apollo astronauts to the Moon and are similar to the engines used on the Japanese HTV – but with an extended nozzle to provide higher performance. The engines will be used on NASA’s Orion spacecraft for which ESA is supplying the first service module, so you could safely say they have much experience in space.

R-4D thruster. Credits: Aerojet

R-4D thruster. Credits: Aerojet

The engines were selected at the beginning of the ATV series for their reliability (we are talking about a time when people paid with French Francs, Deutchmark and Guilders in Europe) and because they were already used on European telecom satellites. At that time, there was no similar engine made in Europe having similar performance.

The closest engine in Europe is the 500-N engine whose development started in Germany for ESA’s Alphabus satellite in 2004-2005. To ensure availability for the entire ATV fleet, ESA decided to buy 28 of the Aerojet engines (then called Kaiser Marquardt) in one batch to serve all ATVs.

The engines left over from the ATV programme are already earmarked for use on Orion’s European Service Module.

Excelitas is an expert in lighting and took care of the lights for ATV navigation and the Integrated Cargo Carrier (they were called Perkin Elmer at the time the first ATV was built).

The navigation lights are the blinking exterior lights astronauts used on approach to see where an ATV was. Once docked, the interior cargo bay lights allow the astronauts to see the cargo, obviously. Lastly, Excelitas supplied the two Visual Video Targets on ATV’s exterior docking cone, which allowed the astronauts on Station to monitor the spacecraft’s approach.

This video of the final ATV undocking shows the navigation lights clearly:

Other US suppliers provided various small propulsion components and parts of the Environmental Control and Life Support system.

Posted in ATV - made in?, ATV-3, ATV-5 | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

ATV’s internal camera delivered data, but not images

A prototype ‘blackbox for spacecraft’ running inside ESA’s cargo ferry as it burned up in the atmosphere managed to return data to the ground but, sadly, the images it took were lost in transit.



ESA’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle broke up as planned over an uninhabited region of the South Pacific at about 18:04 GMT on Sunday 15 February, having separated from the International Space Station the day before.

Aboard it was the Break-Up Camera, designed to record ATV’s death throes in the infrared and transfer the results to the SatCom heatshield-protected sphere.

Surviving the break-up, SatCom then broadcasts its stored data to Iridium telecom satellites as it plummets back to Earth.
ATV-5 reentry seen from Space Station

How did it turn out in practice? The good news is that the team did indeed receive a message from the SatCom on Sunday evening at 18:08 GMT, four minutes after ATV broke up.

Read the full story in ESA website

Posted in ATV-5, News and updates, Operations, Reentry, Technology & engineering | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

More images of ATV’s last flight – from Slovakia

While we wait for news from the Break-Up Camera we received more amazing pictures of ATV-5 in space via our blog contact form - thanks Marian! 

Your invitation to send images of ATV-5 has me caught up now, but I have some interesting images. The first is from 14 February and captures the last common flyby of International Space Station and ATV-5:

14 February and captures the last common flyby of International Space Station and ATV-5
And this is from 15 February and captures single ATV-5 on its last orbit (ATV in culmination last shined with unique a flash):

from 15 February and captures single ATV-5 on its last orbit (ATV in culmination last shined with unique a flash)

With best regards
Marian from Slovakia

Posted in ATV-5, Free flight, Fun stuff, ISS, Operations, Undocking/reentry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Last goodbyes: ATV-5 seen from Earth – a tribute gallery

Update: We have decided to give everybody in this tribute gallery an ATV or ESA goodie. You will be contacted shortly via Twitter or email to send us your address. Thanks so much for sharing ATV's last flight!

When we invited everyone to send us pictures of ATV-5 streaking over skies with the International Space Station for Valentine's day, we didn't expect such an overwhelming response. We received inputs from UK, Belgium, France, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and Poland - wow!

Below are (almost) all the photos we managed to collect including a video. Thanks for sharing this moment with the world, we will miss ATV!

We have not quite decided exactly how we will distribute the prizes (we need to count how much ATV swag we have left) but we know how to contact you...


Posted in ATV-5, Free flight, Fun stuff, Operations, Video | 4 Comments

Next up… Orion!

Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship....

Posted in ISS Partners, Media, Orion | Tagged | Leave a comment

ATV forever

This was the last image shown on the ATV Control Centre's main screen after the last reentry ever of an Automated Transfer Vehicle. The technology in ATV will go to space again in 2017 on NASA's Orion spacecraft.

Last screen shown at the ATV control centre before being switched off.

Last screen shown at the ATV control centre before being switched off.

Posted in Fun stuff, Undocking/reentry | Leave a comment

Great view of ATV-5 smoke trail

And on board the ISS, astro Terry also grabbed an amazing photo of ATV-5 reentry!

Posted in Astronauts, ATV-5, Images, Mission reports, Reentry | Tagged | Leave a comment

A dark and empty ATV Control Centre

Aside from one determined computer monitor ATV Control Centre is switched off and empty. The first time in over five years!

ATV Control Centre is switched off.

ATV Control Centre is switched off.

Posted in ATV-CC | Leave a comment

Rentry from space: ATV-5 seen from ISS

ATV-5 seen from space just prior to its destruction: Thanks for a great photo from the ISS, Astro Sam!

Posted in Astronauts, ATV-5, Images, ISS, Operations, Reentry | Tagged | Leave a comment

Last ATV reentry leaves legacy for future space exploration

ESA’s fifth automated cargo ferry completed its mission to the International Space Station today when it reentered the atmosphere and burned up safely over an uninhabited area of the southern Pacific Ocean.

The end of the mission came as the craft broke up as planned at about 18:04 GMT (19:04 CET), marking the end of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) programme. The programme has served the Station with the most complex space vehicle ever developed in Europe, achieving five launches in six years following its 2008 debut.

Full article in ESA website.

Final view of ATV-CC Credit: ESA

Final view of ATV-CC Credit: ESA

Posted in ATV team, ATV-5, ATV-CC, Images, News and updates, Operations, Reentry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment