We spoke earlier this afternoon ago with ESA's Jean-Christophe Ronnet, who worked on console during today's burn in the Mission Director's chair at ATV Control Centre, Toulouse, France.
As we reported yesterday, the reboost comprised a single burn using the ATV's Orbit Correction System and it ran a bit longer than the planned 243 seconds. The boost used 79.6 kg of fuel, and was intended to provide an increase in speed for the Station of around 0.6 m/second and increase its height by 1 km (the flight dynamics teams are doing an analysis to determine the actual performance).
While the operation from the ATV-CC point of view was not very complex, Jean-Christophe says the reboost was a team effort. At ATV-CC, the activity involved operations teams from ESA and CNES, as well as ESA's ATV programme Engineering Support Team. As always, additional teams working on flight dynamics, software support and a number of other crucial areas were also involved. "The next ATV reboost is now being planned, but this depends on the launch date of Shuttle Endeavour on the STS-134 mission," says Jean-Christophe.
ATV Flight Director Burkhard Jelineck also sent in a note: "Future reboost dates, as Jean-Christophe mentioned, depend on the actual Shuttle lunch date, but the earliest possible is 2 June, with a speed increase of 6 metres/second - ten times more than today's. Later in June, there should be a reboost - in fact a 'bi-boost' - of 11 m/s." (Bi-boost refers to two separate thruster burns.)
Meco on the ISS! A Space Tweep Society patch floats in front of the cupola of the International Space Station. The patch features the society's mascot, named 'Meco' (named after the acronym MECO - or Main Engine Cut-Off). Photo courtesy of @Astro_Ron (Ron Garan) via Flying Jenny
Constant teamwork: scheduling ATV communications
ATV-CC engineers assess relay communication slots
We received a nice note yesterday from ESA's Jean-Michel Bois, Mission Director at ATV-CC, explaining details on the work involved with planning and scheduling communications with ATV-2.
Since ATV separated from its Ariane launcher on 16 February, all communications between ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse and the vessel - receipt of telemetry and sending of telecommands - have been achieved via data relay satellites. Two relay satellite systems are in use: NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) and ESA's own Artemis satellite.
During the current 'phasing' period (i.e. manoeuvring so as to match the ATV orbit with that of the ISS), ATV is communicating primarily via NASA's TDRSS. ATV-CC is using Artemis as a back-up and as a complement when TDRSS communication slots are not available.
The TDRSS satellites can ensure communication during ATV's complete orbit (about once every 90 minutes) thanks to the fact that the system comprises multiple satellites. These are set in a ring in permanent geosynchronous orbit with at least one looking down on all regions the Earth (and on ATV as well!).
ESA's single Artemis satellite is also in geo-orbit, located at 21.4ºE, and offers around 40 minutes of continuous contact during each of ATV's orbits. ESA's Redu station, in Belgium, houses the Artemis mission control room (more details here).
At ATV-CC, it's the task of mission planners and the 'Ops Manager' on console to prepare and manage the communication coverage; this team works in very close coordination with their NASA and Redu counterparts.
For your Saturday evening enjoyment! A gem of a video originally published on ATV launch day, which - of course - quickly sank down the newslist. ESA's Adam Williams explains how the ATV-CC team has come together to work as one while getting ready for the launch and - still to come - docking. Definitely worth a second look - or first, if you missed it during launch day excitement. -- DGS
As we watch the clock for today's new launch attempt, due at 22:50 CET tonight, here is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at how the ATV-CC team gets trained - an interview with ESA's Adam Williams. Adam is the specialist who oversees training and simulations for the joint ESA/CNES operations team here, and in today's video he explains the complexities of training mission controllers on ATV's sophisticated systems and how team work emerges when challenges are overcome.
The Sun’s up and LEOP is winding down
Jean Michel Bois in ATV-CC just prior to launch 16 Feb 2011
A short but very pleasant note came in this morning from ESA's Jean Michel Bois, head of the ESA team here at ATV-CC, who was on shift as Mission Director in the main control room during last night's launch and LEOP (launch and early orbit phase). He wrote:
The Sun's up this morning and the LEOP phase of ATV-2 is over. What a fabulous night! ATV Johannes Kepler is now in the sky and ready for its first manoeuvres to chase after the ISS.
After the disappointment on the 15th when the Ariane countdown was stopped a few minutes before the lift-off, yesterday was a perfect Ariane 5 mission - ending with a very accurate injection into orbit. The level of pressure at ATV-CC was very high as our teams waited for ATV's separation from the upper stage, ready to take control of the vehicle. When the first telemetry from ATV was received by our computers, we knew that launch - a major step - was a success.
Then, one after the other, we could watch the pre-planned events happening on our screens as ATV's systems came to life! These included:
ESA Mission Director Kris Capelle: ready for today’s launch
UPDATED WITH EDITED VIDEO FILE - 16.02 20:41 CET
ESA's lead ATV Mission Director, Kris Capelle, explains what's happening today at ATV-CC as the mission operations team gets ready for tonight's Ariane 5 launch. Yesterday's launch attempt was scrubbed following a measurement anomaly in the liquid oxygen propellant tank of the cryogenic main stage of the Ariane 5 launcher. The new launch time has been set for today, 16 February, at 22:50:55 CET. (Thanks Jari for an excellent video edit!)
… and some photos from ATV-CC Toulouse
It's silent in Toulouse right now: the calm before a storm of activity! Some of the ATV engineers and controllers are going home for a quick meal and rest before an action-packed night - but some are already now on console!
ATV-CC on 15 February at 18:20 CET
Observation room is already prepared for VIPs
ESA & CNES operations managers: Letter of appreciation
At the express request of the ESA and CNES operations team leads here at ATV-CC, we've been asked to post a copy of a letter they signed off yesterday addressed to everyone involved with bringing ATV to launch readiness.
Today is 'Launch Monday' - noted as 'L-1' in the mission planning documentation - and there are a number of crucial activities that will be taking place at Kourou, French Guiana, and at ATV-CC in Toulouse. Tomorrow: the 200th flight will loft by far the heaviest payload ever launched by Ariane 5 - more than 20 tonnes - into a circular orbit at an altitude of 260 kilometres, inclined at 51.6 degrees.
Today, teams across Arianespace, ESA and CNES will be hard at work getting ready for the start of the countdown clock (due Tuesday, 15 February at 11:43 CET - 11hr30min prior to launch).
(1) At Europe's Spaceport in Kourou:
Ariane 5 ES flight v200 with ATV Kepler on board - Roll-out from the vertical integration building (BAF) to Launch Area (ZL); both are located at the ELA3 launch site
At the Launch Area, ground teams will establish data and power connections to Ariane and ATV, and begin filling the main cryogenic stage (called the EPC - Etage Principal Cryotechnique) with liquid Helium (more info here)
(2) And at ATV-CC Toulouse:
ATV Johannes Kepler final flight dynamics calculations were completed yesterday (13 Feb) and will be stored on board today. The exact launch time (23:13:27 CET - Toulouse local time) according to the updated trajectory data from the ISS has been provided to Arianespace. (We've also updated the countdown clock in the blog - Ed.)
Additional data sets will be uploaded to ATV's computers, including GPS files the final pre-flight Onboard Mission Plan (OMP) - the detailed commands that tell ATV what do to and when to do it.
Launch Readiness Review complete
Jean-Michel Bois at ATV-CC
The final, full 'dress rehearsal' of the countdown and launch was held on 9 February at the Arianespace Launch Control Centre in Kourou.
The following day, 10 February, ATV successfully passed its final test, the Launch Readiness Review (LRR), held between Kourou and engineers and programme team members at ESA's ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre) Establishment, in the Netherlands, ESA headquarters in Paris and ESA & CNES mission controllers at ATV-CC in Toulouse.
ESA's Jean-Michel Bois, Mission Director and ESA Team Leader at ATV-CC, said: "The LRR's goal was to check the final status of ATV before launch, including both the ground and flight segments. The conclusion of the LRR is unequivocal: we are 'GO' for launch."
On behalf of ESA, Bois also thanked: "all teams working on this mission for their high-quality work undertaken in a truly effective and professional manner."
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 (planned)
5/06 Lift-off VA213 (planned) All dates subject to change