Cargo loading is underway in French Guiana for the no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which is being readied for a 2012 launch from the Spaceport on Arianespace's next Ariane 5 servicing mission to the International Space Station.
This ATV will carry an estimated 6,960 kg. of dry cargo, propellant, water and gas, with transfer operations to the spacecraft's Integrated Cargo Carrier section now occurring inside the Spaceport's S5 payload preparation building.
The actual cargo mix of each ATV is defined according to the International Space Station's needs prior to a launch of the resupply vessel to the crewed orbital facility.
For the no. 3 ATV - which is named after Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi - the payload will consist of 2,900 kg. of propellant for its own propulsion system, 860 kg. of Russian propellant for the International Space Station's engines, 285 kg. of Russian-supplied water, 102 kg. of gas (consisting of air, oxygen and/or nitrogen), and 2,450 kg. of dry cargo (composed of such items as food, clothing and spare parts).
The dry cargo is contained in special bags that are positioned on racks inside the ATV's Integrated Cargo Carrier, with the locations calculated based on their contents and considerations for the resupply spacecraft's center-of-mass determination.
Loading of the cargo is performed in clean-room conditions that meet standards for manned spaceflight, as the ATV becomes an integral part of the International Space Station while docked to the platform in Earth orbit.
Prior to the ATV's Ariane 5 launch by Arianespace in March 2012, its Integrated Cargo Carrier will be mated with the Service Module in French Guiana to form the complete vehicle. The ATV's unpressurized Service Module contains propulsion systems, electrical power, computers, communications and a majority of the vessel's avionics.
The ATV is an important element of Europe's contribution to the International Space Station's operation, with program management performed by the European Space Agency. Its series of resupply spacecraft is produced in a multi-national team led by the Astrium business unit of EADS, which also is the industrial prime contractor for Ariane 5.
Arianespace lofted the no. 1 ATV (named after Jules Verne) in March 2008, followed by its orbiting of ATV Johannes Kepler this past February.
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