We met on Friday with ESA’s Emilio de Pasquale, ATV Flight Dynamics Engineer at the ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) in Toulouse. He works closely with the flight dynamics experts from CNES who are already working ‘on console’ as they will during the actual mission, preparing sophisticated calculations and other ‘products’ that enable mission controllers, for example, to conduct manoeuvres and other flight activities.

Among other vital tasks, the flight dynamics team carefully plan the complex ATV movements during the launch and early orbit phase, check that all the data relay satellites that communicate with ATV are in sight of the spacecraft when required, and calculate the ATV’s trajectory to the ISS with the necessary accuracy needed for safe and successful docking. Sounds easy, but it is far from that!

Watch Emilio explaining what in fact they’re doing and why: