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European cargo spaceship undocking from ISS postponed again

September 27, 2012, 15:16 UTC+3

Experts from ESA, NASA and Roskosmos have determined that the problem was caused by commands being sent using the wrong spacecraft identification number

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MOSCOW, September 27 (Itar-Tass) — The undocking of the European cargo spacecraft ATV-3 (Edoardo Amaldi) from the International Space Station (ISS) has again been postponed, the Mission Control Centre (MCC) outside Moscow told Itar-Tass.

“Initially, the second attempt to undock the cargo spacecraft was planned for the coming night (at 01:00 MSK Sept. 28), but then it was decided to postpone the manoeuvre till a later date – tentatively on the night from Friday to Saturday,” the MCC explained. The reason for the delay was not been immediately reported.

The European Automated Transfer Vehicle cargo spacecraft on Wednesday failed to undock from the ISS because of a failure in the transfer of the signal from the Russian segment of the station to the European Mission Control, based in the French city of Toulouse.

“During the preparatory operations activities, in accordance with the sequence of the ATV undocking from the orbital station, the signal on the execution of one of the final validation tests did not come from orbit,” the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) reported. “In connection with this circumstance the ATV mission management in Toulouse (France) decided to suspend the undocking process until the causes of the control signal transmission failure are established.”

According to the European Space Agency, experts from ESA, NASA and Roskosmos have determined that the problem was caused by commands being sent using the wrong spacecraft identification number. Power and data links had already been disconnected between ATV-3 and the station to prepare for the departure. Afterwards, they were re-established by controllers at ESA’s ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France. “The joint ESA/CNES mission operations team reacted professionally and skilfully to this unexpected delay,” said Massimo Cislaghi, ESA’s ATV-3 Mission Manager.

A crew of three is currently performing its orbital mission on the ISS: commander Sunita Williams (NASA) Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and astronaut of the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) Akihiko Hoshide.

On March 29, the Edoardo Amaldi cargo spaceship delivered to the ISS about 6.5 tonnes of cargo - fuel, water, oxygen, food and other goods. The first Automated Transfer Vehicle, dubbed Jules Verne, was launched to the ISS in 2008, the second ESA cargo spacecraft Johannes Kepler arrived at the International Space Station in February 2011 and remained docked to the orbiting outpost until the end of last June.

The ATV-3 ship is the only spacecraft, except Russia’s Progress, that is capable of performing the functions of refuelling, orientation and regular orbit correction of the station. In addition, in case of a threat of collision with space debris, it can perform ISS evasive manoeuvres.

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