We got a quick confirmation from ESA's ATV-4 Mission Manager Alberto Novelli on how Albert Einstein – at 20 235kg – weighs in as the heaviest spacecraft ever lifted by Ariane – more so than any of the three previous ATVs. Alberto wrote:
It's important not to mix up the weight of cargo with the overall weight of the ATV.
Inside view taken 9 March; water pump is installed, hardmounted on a rack adapter plate Credit: ESA/C. Beskow
In terms of cargo, we are slightly less than ATV-3 (on the order of 10kg) and definitely less than ATV-2. In terms of overall mass, we are heavier than any ATV and any satellite launched in Europe so far by about 200kg.
The reason is that we have a higher "tare" mass – including the cargo racks, adapter plates (e.g. to secure the Columbus water pump assembly during launch), etc. – this is included in the overall vehicle mass but it is not counted in the cargo mass that we actually transfer to the ISS.
Head Squeeze live: How do you get to the ISS?
Luca's fast way to space
Luca Parmitano and Expedition 36 crewmates will take the fast way to space with Soyuz on 28 May - the Head Squeeze programme explains how. Join the Google hangout on Tuesday at 15:00 CEST with ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli to mark Luca's launch.
Dragon spacecraft launches to ISS
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from Florida at 09:44 CEST (07:44 UT) today. Carrying a cargo that includes food and supplies for the Station crew, it is the first time a privately built spacecraft heads to the ISS.
Dragon is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on Friday 25 May, when Expedition 31 crewmembers André Kuipers and Don Pettit will use the Station's robotic arm Canadarm2 to grapple the spacecraft and manoeuvre it into position to mate with the Harmony module’s Earth-facing docking port.
Good news this AM sent in by ESA's ATV-3 mission manager Massimo Cislaghi: ATV-3 launch via Ariane flight VA205 is set for 11:00 CET, 9 March, followed by docking at 3:31 CET, 19 March. Note that these dates/times may shift (if so, we'll have news right here in the blog).
Discovery can launch 24 February – UPDATE
Updated 19 Feb 09:00 CET
Discovery on Launch Pad 39A 1 February 2011
After yesterday's Flight Readiness Review (FRR), NASA have announced that Discovery is ready to launch next week on a mission to the International Space Station. Discovery is scheduled to launch Thursday, Feb. 24, at 4:50 p.m. EST.
"We had a really thorough review today," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Space Operations. "Things are looking pretty good."
Yesterday, we had reported from the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for Shuttle Discovery on the STS-133 mission to the ISS:
Shuttle program, Mission Operations flight directors and all FRR attendees agree STS-133 can launch 6 hours after ATV docks on 24 February.
The final countdown was stopped 4 minutes and 1 second before the planned launch time because of a measurement anomaly in the liquid oxygen propellant tank of the cryogenic main stage for Ariane 5's Flight v200 launch.
Images from Kourou
The launch vehicle and its payload - the Automated Transfer Vehicle Johannes Kepler - remain on the pad in safe mode, awaiting a restart of launch countdown today, 16 February.
The new launch time is set for tonight at 21:50:55 UTC = 18:50:55 local time in Kourou = 22:50:55 CET.
The teams here at ATV-CC have planned for launch delays many times in training; the trajectory calculations and related actions are now being verified and the control room is ready for the new launch attempt this evening.
ATV-CC on Wednesday morning at 9:50 CET
Countdown clock set to new launch time
Launch simulation at ATV control centre today
Launch simulation 27 January
The ESA-CNES team at ATV-CC are in an intensive simulation today practising the ATV launch and critical LEOP (launch and early orbit phase) periods. Today's activity involves ATV-CC only, says Mission Director Kris Capelle, as there will be additional simulations next week conducted jointly with the Ariane launch control centre at Kourou.
Note that tomorrow afternoon, starting around 16:00 CET, the flight control team here will, for the first time, receive live telemetry from ATV Johannes Kepler mounted on top of Ariane 5.
Gallery with some quick pics from today via flickr.com/esa_events below.
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 All dates subject to change