Ready for liftoff: Ariane 5 arrives at launch pad with ATV Edoardo Amaldi

Ariane 5 is now in the launch zone for Arianespace’s latest International Space Station servicing mission, which will loft Europe’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle from the Spaceport in French Guiana on March 23.

The launcher rolled out this morning under sunny skies during a one-hour, 15-minute transfer that began at 11:15 a.m. from the Spaceport’s Final Assembly Building.  Installed atop one of two operational mobile tables used for Ariane 5, it is now secured in place at the ELA-3 launch zone – enabling final preparations to begin for an early Friday morning liftoff with the ATV payload precisely at 1:34 a.m. local time in French Guiana.

Utilizing an Ariane 5 ES version of Arianespace’s heavy-lift workhorse, this flight is to last just over one hour, and it will include two burns of the launcher’s EPS storable propellant upper stage – separated by a 40-minute-plus ballistic coast phase. The ATV is to be released into a 260-kilometer orbit.

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Named after Italian physicist Edoardo Amaldi, Europe’s third ATV will carry "dry cargo" (including experiments, food, clothing, tools and spare parts), along with water, gas and propellant for delivery to the crewed orbital facility. The Ariane 5 mission has a total lift performance of over 20,000 kg., which includes the ATV’s mass of more than 19,700 kg. – representing the heaviest payload ever to be orbited by Ariane 5.

The ATV program is managed by the European Space Agency, with production of the spacecraft performed by an Astrium-led industry consortium.

Arianespace is entrusted with the orbiting of ATVs under contract to the European Space Agency.  ATV no. 1 (named after Jules Verne) was lofted in March 2008, followed by the February 2011 launch of ATV Johannes Kepler.

Source: Arianespace
Date: Mar 22, 2012