[SatNews] Assembly of the milestone 200th Ariane is now underway at the Spaceport in preparation for its February 2011 mission with Europe's second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), which will service the International Space Station.
This Ariane 5 ES version of Arianespace's workhorse heavy-lift launcher is being assembled in the Spaceport's Launcher Integration Building, where activity began mid-week with the core cryogenic stage's positioning over the mobile launch table. It was followed by rollout of Ariane 5's two large solid rocket boosters for mating with the core stage. Ariane 5 is the latest version of Europe's Ariane launcher family, which began operations in 1979 and has orbited a full range of payloads that include telecommunications satellites, Earth observation and meteorology platforms, space exploration probes, along with defense and security spacecraft.
Arianespace operates two standardized versions of Ariane 5: the ES version for flights to low- and medium-Earth orbits; and the Ariane 5 ECA for GTO (geostationary transfer orbit) missions. The ATV for next February's flight is named after German astronomer/mathematician Johannes Kepler, and will be the second such unmanned logistics spacecraft launched by Ariane 5. These ATVs are part of Europe's contribution to the International Space Station's operation and maintenance.