The Ariane 5 launch of Europe’s no. 3 Automated Transfer Vehicle was given the green light today for a March 23 liftoff from the Spaceport in French Guiana on a servicing mission to the International Space Station.
Today’s approval came at the conclusion of a comprehensive Launch Readiness Review, which is performed before every Arianespace mission to review the “go” status of the launcher, its payload, the Spaceport’s infrastructure, and the network of ground tracking stations.
This clears the way for tomorrow’s rollout of the Ariane 5 from its Final Integration Building at the Spaceport to the facility’s ELA-3 launch site. The flight will mark another operational milestone for Arianespace, as its workhorse Ariane 5 will be carrying its heaviest payload ever – with the Automated Transfer Vehicle weighing more than 20 metric tons.
The no. 3 ATV is named after Italian physicist and spaceflight pioneer Edoardo Amaldi, and is carrying 6.6 metric tons of cargo for the International Space Station. In addition to serving as a resupply spacecraft, the ATV also will function as a “tug” while docked to the crewed orbital facility for up to six months.
Built for the European Space Agency by an Astrium-led industrial consortium, the cylinder-shaped ATV is nearly 10 meters long and 4.5 meters in diameter. In its launch configuration atop Ariane 5, the spacecraft is encapsulated in a 17-meter-tall payload fairing.
ATV Edoardo Amaldi’s liftoff is planned at 1:34 a.m. local time in French Guiana on March 23, with this precise timing required for the spacecraft’s orbital positioning to dock with the International Space Station.
The upcoming mission follows Arianespace’s launch of the first two ATVs, which were lofted by Ariane 5s in February 2011 and March 2008.
Date: Mar 21, 2012