A quick update from Charlotte Beskow at ATV-CC in Toulouse, France, explaining how the ATV fuel lines have been emptied in preparation for undocking.
Monday, 6 June – undocking minus 14 days, reentry minus 15 days
Between this morning and now (22:03 CEST), we have completed the purging of the refuelling lines; last refuelling of the ISS was done 17 and 18 May.
We could not purge on 19 May due to Shuttle Endeavour operations but we have to do it before 20 June in order to be able to undock safely. So, this was done today.
The lines are purged of fuel / oxidiser and then vacuumed. The whole operation is automatic and the most important steps 9there are four in all) take less than 10 min each – but it is a critical operation and we take time to prepare properly and to check progress during / after the operation, so in total the operation lasts about three orbits (4.5 hours).
Since ATV’s refuelling system is a Russian design, a Russian expert is here at ATV-CC in Toulouse with us, ready to help in case of problems.
Our lead engineer on the ATV project team for refuelling is also from Russia and has worked in MCC-M (Mission Control Centre – Moscow) and our interface officer is fluent in Russian, so the team was well prepared for any eventuality. In the end, everything went smoothly (just like for ATV-1)!
That part of the team can now go home for some well-deserved rest. Our next planned refuelling is with ATV-3 in 2012.
That’s it for today but I’ll be back in the coming days with more information on the final part of the ATV-2 mission.