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 Lemaitre 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 Centre, 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. Although the ATV-5 is the final European space transporter to set out for the ISS, the technology and the expertise gained in developing the ATV will be used in new space projects. For example, Airbus Defence and Space is developing on behalf of ESA the service module for the American human spacecraft Orion . It is primarily based on ATV technology and will provide Orion with propulsion and energy, and, for the future human missions, with oxygen, nitrogen and water.
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 kilometres, the ATV-5 deploys its four solar panels, with a wingspan of 22.3 metres, 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).