ATV Inside the Ariane 5

We’ve received an excellent update from ESA’s Charlotte Beskow, the ATV-2 Deputy Mission Manager. She normally works at ESTEC, but is at Kourou for the launch campaign. On 17 January, Charlotte wrote:

It has been an even busier couple of weeks since I wrote the last update in December.

Last time I told you the launch date had been set for Feb 15. We have been working hard towards this goal, and things are definitely coming together.

To everyone’s relief, Arianespace launched the final couple of satellites for 2010 just before New Year’s Eve. This allowed the Kourou ground staff to get at least a few days of well-deserved rest before ATV work started in earnest. I spent Christmas and New Year in Kourou, baby sitting our fully loaded vehicle. It was an easy task and enabled me some valuable preparation time and the possibility to see the launch of V199 from the enclosed visitor’s area of the control room. Next time I step into the control room it will be on the other side of the glass barrier. Needless to say I am looking forward to that moment!

The launcher has finished its initial processing and has been moved to the final integration building [BAF – Ed.]. ATV has been filled with close to 7 tons of propellant and is undergoing final preparations: integration of the last multilayer insulation, the final tests, etc.

On 20 Jan we move ATV-2 to the final assembly building [this was done! – Ed.] where it will be integrated onto the launcher. 13 days before launch we will integrate what we call late load cargo, i.e. ca 430 kg of items that NASA needs to transport to the ISS. Cargo loading will be accomplished by opening the docking interface and by using a specially designed elevator to gently lower an operator into ATV-2 and to then lower the cargo bags, one by one (28 in total) so that they can stow them into their designated spaces. With the ATV in vertical position there is no room for error.

In Toulouse [ATV-CC], the teams have undergone the final multi-day simulation of a complete flight scenario i.e. launch, early operations, phasing with the ISS and the actual rendezvous and docking.

The crew who are to receive ATV are already in space (they were launched via Soyuz in December from Kazakhstan). The actual rendezvous and docking will be handled by an ESA astronaut, Paolo Nespoli.

The Final Acceptance Review is finished; the Joint Operations Readiness Review, the Operations Readiness Review, and the Cargo Safety review have all been completed.  There are still outstanding reviews but we will accomplish them one by one according to the ‘standard’ launch processing schedule. I’ll get back to you with more updates during the final days of the campaign.

Thank you, Charlotte, for the information and we look forward to hearing from you soon!