Mission report 11 October
Happening in space (and on Earth!) this week:
- 15 October: Second run of undocking training
- 17 October: Cargo transfer
- 17 October: ATV Proximity Communications Equipment (PCE) installation on board ISS
- 18 October: Cargo transfer
- 19 October: PCE test between ISS and ESA ground stations
And a super nice image of the ISS and ATV-4 seen from the ground in August, courtesy of Ralf Vandebergh!
Especially the Russian modules stand out well in this image -- but you can see how Europe's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV Albert Einstein, causes a thick extension of the aft end of the station. It looks bigger, in any case more obvious then the Zvezda module, one of the main modules of the Russian side of the ISS. Credit: R. Vandebergh
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.
ESA team at Santa Maria tracking station
ESA ESTRACK engineer Gerhard Billig is with the team at the Agency's Santa Maria station, located way the heck out in the Atlantic Ocean, to track Ariane 5 VA213 today.
Gerhard just mailed:
We actually had the first voice contact [with the CNES & Arianespace flight controllers] just now.
Internal checks are finished, we are preparing for the first data flow test with Kourou.
The weather today is quite typical Azorean, currently windy and a light spray rain; there was some sunshine earlier on. All 4 seasons in one day
ESA mission director: Excitement in the control room!
Editor's note: ESA mission Director Kris Capelle sent in this report earlier this evening to provide details on yesterday's successful proximity link telecommanding direct to ATV-3 in orbit via ESA's ESTRACK ground station network. The successful test of this important back-up communication link is proof of the versatility and expertise of ESA's ground station teams and technology, the ESA/CNES teams at ATV-CC and our marvellous ATV vessel.
ATV Mission Director Kris Capelle (standing, blue shirt) during last year's ground test of the ATV back-up link. Now it works in orbit, too.
The proximity link test last night with our ESTRACK ground stations was a big success.
For the first time, we received telemetry and sent commands from several of our ESA ground stations (Maspalomas, Villafranca and Redu) to/from ATV in orbit.
With this test, we demonstrated that we have an additional operational possibility for communication with ATV in case of emergency or loss of the prime telecommanding channels.
It was not easy, though, to perform this test. Yes, the teams were very excited, but we had to be very concentrated to perform the job successfully.
ATV Ground Segment
First off, making this link ready to work was the result of a long project first begun after ATV-1, in which the ATV's on-board software had to be updated and then validated.
Then, our control centre here in Toulouse had to be configured to communicate with ESA's ESTRACK stations. In addition, dedicated equipment had to be installed in the stations and these units had to be configured and controlled from ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre, in Darmstadt, Germany.
ATV-CC sends commands to orbiting ATV-3 via ESTRACK stations
For the first time, mission controllers at ATV-CC in Toulouse successfully communicated yesterday with ATV in orbit via the 'Back-up Proximity Link'. The link uses ESA's ESTRACK station network to send telecommands and receive telemetry directly to/from the vessel via ATV's proximity link radio system. (The prox link is normally used for ATV-to-ISS telecommunication during docking; but it's more than capable of talking direct to ESTRACK stations on Earth).
ESA's 15m ESTRACK antenna at Redu, Belgium. Credit: ESA
ESA's 15m ESTRACK antenna at ESAC, Spain. Credit: ESA
ESA's 15m ESTRACK antenna at Maspalomas, Spain. Credit: ESA
ESA's 15m stations at Maspalomas and Villafranca, Spain, and Redu, Belgium, were used in yesterday's test, which confirmed the availability of an additional operational communication link with ATV-3. The stations are controlled from ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
And the ESTRACK stations performed flawlessly!
For more background on the back-up proximity link system and how it was developed, read our earlier posts below; these describe (a) the successful first-ever test of the system, when ATV-2 was mounted on top of Ariane 5 at Kourou last year and successfully communicated with ATV-CC via the ESTRACK station in Kourou, and (b) successful test of communication between ESTRACK stations and the prox link radio mounted on the ISS.
More details on ESA's ESTRACK station network via ESA web.
And -- just because ESTRACK stations are gorgeous -- here are the webcam views of ESA's 35m stations in Cebreros, Spain, and Malargue, Argentina:
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.
ATV launch dress rehearsal complete
Charlotte Beskow - DMS-A - without her headset - the Jupiter control room at Kourou
This report came in overnight from Charlotte Beskow in Kouruo,who sent her mail around 04:00 CET. The folks at Kourou had a very long day! - DGS
We have just finished the official dress rehearsal!
This means that Kourou's Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) together with the ground stations, ATV-CC and ATV itself have simulated the countdown and the actual flight to ensure that all is ready for launch next week on Tuesday, 15 February.
ESA's Nico Dettmann: ATV Mission Manager signing a CoQ at the end of a very long day
This type of exercise is very demanding and requires a lot of preparation and coordination to ensure that communication run smoothly. If we look only at our interface with ATV-CC, there are four separate groups playing a role: the Mission Manager here in the Launcher Control Room at Kourou, technical people nearby in the room that hosts the Electrical Ground Support Equipment (our cable interface to ATV), the ATV-CC Control Centre team in Toulouse and the Engineering Support team, also in Toulouse.
Update on today’s rehearsal from Santa Maria station
ESA's Gerhard Billig, the lead engineer overseeing launcher tracking on behalf of the ESTRACK team at ESOC, sent in some photos and an update from ESA's 5.5m tracking station on Santa Maria island in the Azores a couple hours ago.
Gerhard writes: ESA's 5.5m Santa Maria station and 15m Perth, Australia, station are taking part in today's dress rehearsal - both are part of the launcher down-range network for Ariane-5/ATV-2. Today's rehearsal covers the entire launch countdown including all sequences on the launcher side and on the payload side. Today's practice will be executed following the same procedures as on launch day.
Here are some pictures of the antenna at Santa Maria - today we are lucky with the weather; yesterday there was an incredible rain storm the whole day! A couple pictures include the team here: Ricardo Conde, Rui Pimentel, Sergio Soares, Ricardo Mourao and myself. Cheers - Gerhard
Santa Maria station in the Azores
Team at ESA's Santa Maria station during ATV-2 rehearsal 9 Feb 2011
Santa Maria station in the Azores, February 2011
ATV rehearsal at Santa Maria station 9 Feb
Santa Maria station in the Azores, February 2011
More details on ESTRACK network involvement in tracking Ariane via ESA Operations
Azorean station to track Ariane launch
Nice update in the ESA website today on Santa Maria station's involvement with the ATV launch. We'll have a post ready for you shortly that explains how ESA's Perth station will support ATV. More information on both stations in ESA's ESTRACK pages here. - DGS
Santa Maria station, part of ESA's ESTRACK network
When ATV Johannes Kepler is lofted into space on 15 February, an ESA tracking station on Portugal's Santa Maria island will watch closely, gathering crucial data as Ariane 5 streaks overhead.
In 2008, the Santa Maria station, located five kilometres from the town of Vila do Porto on the Portuguese island of Santa Maria, in the Azores, became the latest station to join ESA's global ESTRACK tracking network. Santa Maria's 5.5 m-diameter antenna provides crucial tracking services for Ariane 5 rockets as they boost Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) into orbit.
Via ESA web
ESA ground stations communicate with ISS
We received a note on Monday, 31 January, from ESA's Daniel Firre from the ATV Operations Management Team who was here at ESOC in Germany working with the ESTRACK ground station experts to conduct a pre-launch test of the ATV proximity communication system. The system provides a direct radio link between ATV and the Russian Zvezda service module of the ISS.
Monday's test included transmitting a signal from the ISS in space to ESA's 15m stations located at Maspalomas and Villafranca, Spain, a space-to-ground distance of some 350 km.
Compare this to a separate test last week with the ATV, which involved using the proximity communication transmitter on board ATV to transmit a live radio signal over the air from ATV mounted on top of Ariane 5 (in Kourou) to ESA's 15m ground station that is also in Kourou - a distance of just a few kilometres! See: 'Telemetry received from ATV via ESA tracking station'
Now, both proximity radio units - one on board the ISS and one on board ATV - have successfully contacted ESA tracking stations. And both the primary and back-up modes have been confirmed. As Daniel wrote: "The success of today's test lit another green light for launch on 15 February."
Access full details after the jump.