Update sent in earlier today from ESA’s Charlotte Beskow, now in ATV-CC Toulouse – Ed.
Early May in Europe is a time with many ‘holidays’. These vary from country to country, which makes for some tricky planning when you are working on a Pan-European project.
In addition it gives a false sense of having plenty of time, whereas in reality things are moving towards launch at a fast pace! Here is a short summary of where we stand since 7 May.
7 May – ATV into the container used to transport it to BAF
Transfer of ATV-4 to the ‘Batiment Assemblage Finale’ (BAF) by special truck in the early hours of the morning.
Later this day: RSCE General Designer Review concludes that ISS is ready to receive ATV-4.
8 May – ORB & Lifting ATV
The ESA Operations Readiness Board concludes that ATV-4 is ready to be launched (pending some normal ‘open’ work items). ATV Einstein is hoisted up the “chimney” in the BAF and installed on top of Ariane 5.
13 May – Go for late cargo loading
Meeting to give the OK for the final so-called ‘late’ cargo loading. This is done by opening the ATV hatch and having an operator descend into ATV using a specially built elevator.
The picture shows the required structure during preparation (easier to see how impressive it is!). The operator stands on the platform inside the ring, and then the elevator descends into the fully packed ATV.
Cargo loading is planned for Tue and Wed, 14 and 15 May.
In Toulouse, we hold the Test Readiness Review for the final simulations.
Wednesday is a test (JIS – Joint International Simulation – Ed.) with ATV-CC in Toulouse, the Engineering Support Team (EST) from the ATV project office at ESTEC, Moscow and Houston. All are connected via the operational communication links (via ESA’s Columbus Control Center in Oberpfaffenhofen, near Munich) and all teams and engineers will be on console using their final procedures for rendezvous and docking.
Thursday is the final simulation of the Launch and Early Orbit Phase (LEOP); we take the opportunity to advance on whatever open issues remain.
In parallel to all this the NASA Stage Operations Readiness Review (SORR) concludes that ATV is ready to be launched.
The Certificate of Flight Readiness is issued: things are really moving fast!
14 May – EST arrives at ATV-CC
Engineering Support Team members arrive in Toulouse at the Control Center and are given a final briefing before the JIS simulation. This is their last chance to prepare in-situ for the flight.
For most of us, it is also the first simulation where the sim team do not inundate us with failures… so all in all it should be a good couple of days allowing us to get into the right, serene, frame of mind for the launch. In Kourou, the first part of late cargo loading is done.
15 May – JIS starts
Teams are on console at 06:45 and the sim starts at 07:30. As usual, it is impossible to know what time it is. Your body and watch tell you one thing, the wall clock, something completely different. Not only are all operations done on GMT (i.e. two hours different from local CEST) but we are simulating the real flight. Therefore, it is ’26 June and about 07:00′. Of course, this is just a simulation date and does not mean that we dock on 26 June (we don’t).
So, time for me to go upstairs and join my team in the control room!