KOROLEV, June 15 (Itar-Tass) - The European transport ship ATV-4, Albert Einstein, docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, June 15.
The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is now connected to the Space Station’s Zvezda service module.
“The rendezvous and docking were performed autonomously by ATV’s own computers, closely monitored by flight controllers from ESA and France’s CNES space agency at the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, and by Luca Parmitano and his crewmates on the Station,” ESA said.
The 20-tonne ship, the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by Europe, flying autonomously but being continuously monitored from the ground, navigated itself using GPS signals and, in the final 250 metres before contact, via laser signals reflected from the aft end of the Zvezda ISS module, and docked with the 420-tonne ISS with a precision of a few centimetres while circling Earth at a speed of 28,000 kilometres per hour.
On board the ISS, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Misurkin were closely monitoring the docking process. If something had gone wrong, the crew could have issued commands directly to ATV, instructing it to pause, stop or even abort the docking.
ESA said that like its predecessors, ATV-4 is much more than a simple supply vessel: it is a space tug, a tanker, a freighter and a temporary habitation module.
In its tanks, it carries 860 kilograms of propellant, 100 kilograms of oxygen and air, and 570 kilograms of drinking water, all to be pumped into the ISS tanks.
In its pressurised cargo module, it carries more than 1400 items packed into 141 bags, including 2,480 kilograms of dry cargo such as scientific equipment, spare parts, food and clothes for the astronauts, ESA said.
The hatches between the ISS and ATV-4 are scheduled to be opened on June 17.
ATV-4 is loaded with 2,580 kilograms of propellant to perform regular reboosts to make up for the natural decay in altitude of the Station’s orbit caused by atmospheric drag.
It can even move the entire space complex out of the path of hazardous space debris. ATV also provides attitude control when other spacecraft are approaching the Station, the agency said.
“With the fourth ATV now ready to support and supply the Space Station with essential supplies and scientific experiments, ESA again proves itself to be a reliable partner in the international station upon which the future can be developed,” ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said.
At the end of its mission on October 28, ATV-4, packed with waste, will undock from the ISS. The following day, it will be directed to burn up safely in the atmosphere during reentry over the South Pacific Ocean, ESA said