Diary from a space project 24 March, Saturday, L+1
This sent in from ESA’s Charlotte Beskow, deputy ATV team head, from Toulouse, yesterday, the day after ATV-3 launch and covers Friday and Saturday – Ed.
- D0 — 23 March: Launch (in the very early hours of the morning!)
Solar arrays deployment: done
- D+5 –28 March: Docking to the ISS set for late evening 28 March
(22:34 UTC, which is 00:34 CEST on 29 March) so this is ~D-4.5
Update from Toulouse and the ATV-CC
23 March — Early Friday morning
My alarm rings at 03:45… actually, I have been wide awake since 03:00, and I started by immediately checking the voice recorder of CNES. All is green! Quick breakfast before the taxi arrives. Outside it is cold and foggy.
I get to the CNES establishment in Toulouse (CST – Centre spatial de Toulouse – Ed.) at the same time as the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP) team shift. Everyone is exited! The final verification of GPS data and first mission plan were done from the expert’s hotel lobby last night. All was OK. This morning it seems as if the weather will cooperate.
How do we know who is where? Easy: we have a multi-coloured Excel spreadsheet posted at the exit of the room (see photo below)! Each technical/engineering function has a colour and each person has a line!
This sheet covers launch to docking and we will revise it with each change in the mission plan. New files will be issued for April, May and so on until August.
I am not on shift, so, after greeting my colleagues, I head over to the Leonardo da Vinci building together with others not on shift (the LdV building is not too far from ATV-CC and has a large theatre — it’s also the site for the 28 March CNES/ESA ATV Docking SpaceTweetup – Ed.)
The video image is grainy, but we can see ‘our’ launcher clearly.
There is no ‘launch window’ — ATV must be launched on the dot at the planned time, so either it leaves or stays until tomorrow. We watch our colleagues in the control room in Kourou. We wait for the DDO (Launch Flight Director) announcement: “Attention pour la decompte finale 10, 9, 8, …”
The lift off is perfect!
Ariane immediately disappears into thick cloud cover but then reappears again and we can follow it for quite a while. You can see the professional images via Flickr:
After the successful separation of ATV-3 from the upper stage, I make my way back to the EST room. Eddie is now on his own, on battery power, and it is important to get the solar arrays out so that they can start generating power.
The design authority experts (from the manufacturer, Astrium – Ed.) follow this closely and have a phone link to the people in the Kourou Launcher Control Room.
Soon, we hear:
Ca y’est: Les 4 sont deployées… “and they are rotating!”
It is now 07:30 local time (CET). Time to leave in order to beat the morning traffic and get some rest before my own shift.
One hour later the sun is streaming down from a clear blue sky. The weather is perfect… Sleeping is impossible so it will be a long evening /night shift…
23 March, Friday evening
I get back to the control centre at 20:00 Friday evening. By this time, the ATV’s antenna boom has been released (which enables direct, ATV-to-ISS ‘proximity’ communication during rendezvous), and the first two boosts have successfully taken place.
I have time to do a few emails before I go on shift. Nothing is planned this night and nothing unplanned happens so my colleagues and I pass a quiet night.
24 March, Saturday
At 06:00 CET local time my shift is over. We have some issues to be worked but these will be dealt with mainly by the day shift.
The coming days will definitely be busy…!
Recap of the important timings for the coming days
23 March — launch: 04:34 GMT
23 March — separation: 05:37 GMT
Phasing – takes place over over a few days as we gradually ‘phase’ our orbit with that of the ISS in order to line up for the rendezvous
25 March — Europe goes to summer time (CEST = GMT + 2)
26 March — Extension of docking probe
28 March — Rendezvous phase starts at ~18:26 GMT
Docking is actually set for 22:33 GMT (i.e. 00:33 local time on 29 March)
29 March — Hatch opening planned at ~16:00 GMT
That’s it for now!