All content related to operations, manoeuvres, and flight activities
3D virtual visits: inside and out of the International Space Station
First up - Outside!
This is pretty cool! And, in our humble opinion, ATV docking starting around the 2:40 point is the best part!
Get an idea of what it feels like to see the International Space Station from the outside, as an astronaut on a spacewalk. Put your 3D glasses on to appreciate the size of humankind's orbital laboratory and watch a Soyuz spacecraft undock and a docking with ESA's supply spacecraft Automated Transfer Vehicle.
Watch both full screen for best effect!
Next - inside!
This, too, is pretty cool. And the ATV bit comes at toward the end, at 4:40!
Put your 3D glasses on for this virtual visit of the International Space Station's modules. Float through the space laboratories and connecting modules from the perspective of an astronaut.
How to cook a meteorite for travel to the International Space Station
1 space-grade silicone polymer
Vacuum oven to 100°C at 0.01 mbar
Oven to 400°C
The voyage of our reconstituted art-meteorite took a significant step closer to space last week when it was prepared and coated to be space (re-)worthy. To recap the voyage so far: a piece of the Campo del Cielo meteorite that fell to Earth over 5000 years ago was bought by artist Katie Paterson, based in Berlin. She took a mould of her piece of space rock, melted down the meteorite and reformed an exact copy. Now the rock has a new destination: the International Space Station via transport ship ATV George Lemaître that will be launched next year.
Materials and electrical components laboratory at ESTEC, The Netherlands
Before the meteorite-art can be sent to Earth’s space laboratory however, it needs to be prepared for safety at ESA’s Materials Space Evaluation and Radiation Effects laboratories at ESTEC, The Netherlands.
On a fine Dutch morning, ESA’s Space Station Logistics Engineer Bram Bekooy and Materials and Processes expert Marika Orlandi inspected the meteorite one last time.
Bram Bekooy measuring the meteorite
Its precise measurements and weight were recorded and a plan of action was decided upon: thorough cleaning to get rid of corrosion, vacuum treating the iron rock at 100°C for an hour, coating the piece of art in a protective silicone-based varnish and curing at 100°C.
The vacuum-cooking makes sure that any moisture on the meteorite’s surface is literally sucked off. Better to do this on Earth (where we can open the window to the laboratory and get some fresh air) rather than on the International Space Station where particles could build up and clog filters or even cause health problems for astronauts.
Catalin Fotea graciously agreed to help out on this project, providing a change of tasks from his usual role analysing and testing space-materials.
Cleaning Campo del Cielo
A paint job is only as good as its preparatory work, so rust and dirt must be carefully scraped off with a brush, space-worthy dental tools and a grinder. Once clean, blow away all remaining dust and rust with high-pressure air.
In the vacuum oven
Water and other volatile materials must be dealt with during an hour’s treatment in the vacuum oven at 100°C.
While the meteorite is vacuum-cooked, prepare the coating. Mix one part hardener to nine parts space-grade silicone compound. Stir vigorously until a smooth opaque mix is achieved. Pop the mixture in a vacuum chamber to outgas. Repeat until a clear liquid is achieved.
Remove meteorite from vacuum oven after one hour and allow to cool.
Apply previously prepared silicone mixture thoroughly to all surfaces, nooks and crannies. Place coated meteorite in preheated oven for curing at 100°C for one hour, or alternatively leave at room temperature for a few days.
And there you have it!
A safe, space-certified meteorite. With Catalina’s help and equipment, we went through the process in less than half a day.
The meteorite was placed in a zip-lock bag and is on its way to Turin, Italy, for loading onto ATV-5.
Next destination: space… first via plane to Europe’s Space Port in French Guiana and then on to ATV-5 cargo’s module to the International Space Station.
Ready again for space
No rest for the teams!
A quick update from Jean-Michel Bois at ATV-CC, where many members of the ESA/CNES mission control team enjoyed only a short weekend as ATV-4 came to a successful conclusion. I had mailed to ask him if the next round of simulation training would start already. He replied:
No simulations yet (first in January)!
Beforehand, we need to archive the ATV-4 data... then clean the computers and hard disks. Afterwards, there's implementation of a few changes in the hardware configuration (network, redundancies, etc.). At the end of the month, we've got installation of the ATV-CC ATV5 version software (adapted databases, a few software corrections and upgrades, etc.). December is dedicated to checking and validating this new environment. The goal is to be ready for a major ATV operations milestone, the SRKP (Simulation Readiness Key Point), which is now planned for 9 January. This provides the 'Go' to start the simulation and training campaign.
Jean-Michel Bois at ATV-CC
Immediately after, we'll have two major simulations – for the rendezvous (RDV) and the launch/LEOP phase. The first trilateral coordinated training (ESA-NASA-RSCE + ground networks) – called the 'JIS' for Joint Integrated Simulation – is scheduled on 22 January.
As you can see, actually, the schedule is very tight and each day is important. No vacation for the teams!
Expected loss of contact
Teams at ATV-CC forecast that loss of radio contact – loss of signal (LOS) – with ATV-4 will occur at about 13:05CET.
Europe’s fifth ATV for launch by Arianespace begins its pre-flight checkout at the Spaceport
The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Georges Lemaître has begun preflight checkout in the Spaceport’s clean room facilities, following its arrival in French Guiana for a scheduled Ariane 5 flight next year.
Artwork depicting the Ariane 5 flight with ATV-5, as well as the vessel's namesake. Credit: Arianespace
As the fifth and final ATV to be launched by Arianespace under current arrangements with the European Space Agency, this spacecraft’s Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) has now been removed from its special shipping container in the S5C preparation hall.
In the Spaceport’s S5C high bay, ATV Georges Lemaître’s Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC) emerges from its specialized shipping container. Credit: Arianespace
Alberto says that since undocking on 28 October, the mission team at ATV-CC have been pacing ATV-4 through a series of manoeuvres that more or less mimic the manoeuvres used for rendezvous and docking with the actual ISS, which the vessel accomplished back in June.
ATV Rendezvous & Docking Profile - when docking to a non-phantom station!
He says, however, that tomorrow's 'rendezvous' is with a "virtual point in space approximately 100 km beneath the real ISS" (hence our tongue-in-cheek title for this post!), from which ATV-4 will be commanded to perform its two de-orbit burns.
Most of the manoeuvring to get to this virtual point at the right time (around noon tomorrow) has already been done; there remains just a pair of burns to be done this evening and then two overnight to do some fine tuning. If all goes well Albert Einstein will be perfectly lined up for its 'phantom' rendezvous tomorrow AM for a spectacular farewell.
This evening, the first set of the final 'Transfer to ISS Vicinity' manoeuvres (TV1-1, TV1-2) are set to take place at 19:20 and 20:03 CET, running for 3:50 and 4:01, respectively. Overnight, the second set (TV2-1, TV2-2) are planned for 02:56 and 03:54 CET, running for 00:40 and 00:55, respectively. These are the last burns prior to Saturday morning's two big de-orbit burns, DEO1 & DEO2.
Note as always: All dates/timings below are forecast only and are subject to change as this is a continuing, dynamic mission. Time below indicated in UTC.
From ATV Control Centre, Jean-Michel Bois' update on this morning's activities:
Two boosts this morning were performed with very high accuracy. At 07:42 and 08:30 UTC, decreasing ATV Albert Einstein's speed by 1.7 m/s.
The thrusters were ignited for 29 seconds, bringing Albert's orbit down to around 360km - around 50 km below the International Space Station's orbit.
The next set of manoeuvres is planned tomorrow 01 November at 18:27 and 19:13 UTC.
Making sure ATV reentry is safe
We spoke a few days back with ESA space debris specialist Holger Krag, from the Agency's Space Debris Office at ESOC, Germany, on how he helps ensure that the ATV controlled re-entry is safe and, well, controlled.
Holger will be familiar to some of you: he joined DLR's Manuel Metz on stage at the SocialSpace event in Cologne in September to present on the two agency's space debris research and mitigation activities.
In today's audio interview, Holger mentions the SPOUA and Navareas 14 & 15; these can be seen in the Google Earth widget below.
The SPOUA region is the big red square-ish area; essentially, ATV comes down inside this unpopulated region. The two Navareas, for which are responsible Chile and New Zealand are responsible, are shown also. (If the widget doesn't display for any reason, download the KML file here and simply open it in your Google Earth programme.)
Re-entry manoeuvre timeline
Here's a listing of the planned manoeuvres to be performed by ATV Albert Einstein this week, leading up to its controlled destructive re-entry over the Pacific on Saturday, 2 November, around mid-day.
For background, read Mike Steinkopf's detailed update (Update on first post-undocking manoeuvres) and note especially that, for the first time, ESA and NASA are planning to position the ISS such that the station's downward-pointing video cameras (and, hopefully, the crew!) can watch the reentry as it happens in real-time.
Note that the times are in UTC (= CET-1 this week) and, as always, these are subject to change as the mission progresses.
On Saturday, 2 November, there will be two additional burns, the so-called 'de-orbit burns'.
Times in UTC
6/05 - ATV-4 moves to the BAF for final preparations
8/05 - ESA Operations Readiness Review
20/05 - Late-cargo loading
31/05 - Launch Readiness Review
03/06 - IMMT GO/NO-GO for launch & docking
05/06 - Lift-off Arianespace VA213 23:52 CEST
15/06 - Docking 15:46 CEST
28/10 - Undocking 9:55 CET
2/11 - Reentry 13:05 CET All future dates subject to change