[SatNews] Aptly named after the scientist responsible for the Big Bang theory, this launch of 20 metric tons is the heaviest payload ever.
Statement from Arianespace
Ariane 5 marked a key operational milestone and set a new record on its 60th consecutive “mission accomplished,” successfully orbiting the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Georges Lemaître and once again demonstrating Arianespace’s ability to serve the European space sector.
Arianespace’s heavy-lift workhorse delivered a record payload performance lofting this fifth and final ATV spacecraft for the European Space Agency (ESA), which resupplies the International Space Station (ISS). With a mass of more than 20 metric tons at liftoff from the Spaceport
in French Guiana, ATV Georges Lemaître is the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe. Today’s mission marked the final ATV orbited for the European Space Agency, following four previous missions: “Jules Verne” (March 2008), “Johannes Kepler” (February 2011), “Edoardo Amaldi” (March 2012) and “Albert Einstein” (June 2013). With these flights, Ariane 5 has lofted a combined total payload lift weight of more than 100 metric tons to service the International Space Station.
Today’s mission—designated Ariane Flight VA219 in the company’s numbering system—lifted off at precisely at 8:47:38 p.m. from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone, according to the timing for the ATV payload’s orbital phasing to rendezvous with the crewed orbital facility.
During a flight lasting just over one hour, Ariane 5 delivered ATV Georges Lemaître into its targeted circular orbit. The ATV is scheduled to dock with the ISS on August 12, delivering supplies such as water, air, food and propellant to the facility, as well as being able to reboost the International Space Station into its nominal orbit when needed.
The landmark Flight VA219 also further underscores the continued reliability, performance and availability of Arianespace’s heavy-lift workhorse, which has achieve 60 successes in a row dating back to 2003 – an achievement that “went social” following the launch with the “#60inarow” and “Ariane5” hashtags on Twitter.
Ariane 5’s consecutive on-target flights have comprised a variety of missions—ranging from delivering commercial telecommunications satellites to lofting ATV resupply vehicles for the International Space Station, while also sending scientific spacecraft into space.
Arianespace’s Flight VA219 also marked another significant step in the partnership between Arianespace and ESA, the customer for this mission and a partner in the operation of its launcher family.
Israël also recognized the dual role of Airbus Defence and Space as prime contractor for both the Ariane 5 launcher and its ATV payload, as well as the contributions of the entire European space industry.
All five ATV missions to resupply the International Space Station utilized the Ariane 5 ES version, which is tailored for low-Earth orbit missions.
Flight VA219 is the second mission for Europe this year, following launch of the European Commission’s flagship Copernicus program’s initial Sentinel-1A Earth Observation spacecraft on Soyuz in April. Arianespace also has two more missions scheduled in 2014 for Europe: an August 21 Soyuz flight with the first two Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites for the European Galileo space-based navigation program; and the European Space Agency’s Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle (IXV), which is targeted for a November Vega mission.
This 2014 European activity comprises the company’s complete launcher family operating from French Guiana: Ariane 5, the medium-lift Soyuz and the lightweight Vega.
In total, Arianespace has performed six launches to date from French Guiana in 2014, comprising three Ariane 5 flights, two missions with Soyuz and one Vega liftoff— a pace that keeps the company on track to meet its 2014 target of 12 missions, based on the availability of payloads scheduled for these launches.
Statement from Airbus
The 60th consecutive successful launch of the European launcher Ariane 5 sees European space transporter ATV “Georges Lemaître” safely on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). At exactly 8.47 pm (local time) on Tuesday evening, the duo took off from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. With a total weight of almost 20.3 tonnes, ATV “Georges Lemaître” thereby surpassed its four predecessors by being the heaviest payload ever to be launched into orbit by an Ariane. Airbus Defence and Space, the world’s second largest space company, is responsible for the development and production of the Ariane 5, and is also the prime contractor for the ATV for the European Space Agency (ESA).
François Auque, Head of Space Systems, said: “We would like to express our gratitude to Arianespace, which markets the launches and operates the range of European launch systems at the Guiana Space Center, and to all our industrial and institutional partners, for the launch of the Ariane/ATV duo.”
“This is the 60th consecutive successful launch of an Ariane 5, reinforcing its position as the world’s most reliable commercial launcher and marking the epilogue of one of Europe’s greatest space successes. ATV is one of the most sophisticated spacecraft ever, able to dock automatically at 28,000 km/h with the accuracy of less than the width of a coin. But this is far from the end! Even when its mission in orbit is over, ATV’s technologies will benefit numerous other space adventures,” Auque said.
Additionally, the expertise gained in developing the autonomous rendezvous and docking system could, for instance, be used to “catch” non-steerable objects such as space debris or asteroids. The technology can also be used to land safely and independently on other planets.
Once placed into orbit at an altitude of around 260 kilometers, the ATV-5 deploys its four solar panels, with a wingspan of 22.3 meters, as well as an antenna for communication with the ISS. The ATV “Georges Lemaître” is scheduled to rendezvous with the ISS on 12 August, where it will be received by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. During the rendezvous with ISS, and a few days prior, during a dedicated ISS fly-under, ATV-5 will activate the LIRIS demonstrator (short for Laser InfraRed Imaging Sensor). LIRIS will acquire in-flight data necessary to prove new rendezvous technologies in particular with non-cooperative targets such as space debris. This experiment will be made possible by a suite of optical sensors developed by Sodern and Jena-Optronik under the Airbus Defence and Space ATV program.
As with previous ATVs, following ATV Control Center authorizations, ATV “Georges Lemaître” will automatically perform the rendezvous maneuvers in steps, starting about 40 km from the ISS using ATV and ISS relative GPS; then from 250m to the ISS, using its videometers, ATV-5 will align its docking system with the ISS Russian module, and then precisely control its attitude and position to the ISS docking port, with an accuracy of a few centimeters. Once the first contact has been made, the ATV-5 will automatically execute the mechanical and electrical docking procedure, which will connect the cargo vehicle to the ISS. The ATV-5 will then become a fully-fledged operational module, forming part of the Space Station.
Since 2003, Airbus Defence and Space has been the prime contractor of the Ariane 5 European launcher, one of the largest and most ambitious space programs in the world, and oversees an industrial network comprising more than 550 companies (over 20 percent of them SMEs—Small and Medium sized Enterprises) in 12 European countries. Space Systems also manages the entire industry supply chain, from the production of equipment components and rocket stages to the complete integration of the launcher system in French Guiana, in line with the customer’s specifications. Thanks to the expertise the company has acquired and the investments it has made over the last decade, Ariane 5 has become the most reliable commercial launcher on the global market and has increased its geostationary orbit payload capacity by nearly two tonnes. A prime example of European know-how, this rocket system has been specifically designed to carry heavy payloads into space.