Preparations for the arrival of "Jules Verne", the first European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), and those for ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori’s mission, took a step forward when the unmanned Russian cargo spacecraft Progress M-52 docked yesterday, 2 March at 21.10 Central European Time (CET) with the International Space Station (ISS).
Launched two days earlier, on 28 February at 20.09 CET from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan by a Soyuz rocket as ISS mission 17P, the Progress supply vehicle carried, among other cargo, a communication system made in Europe that will be used when the ATV docks with the station in 2006. The "Proximity Communication Equipment" (PCE) will provide S-band data communication between the ISS and the ATV during the last 30 kilometres before the ATV docks. It consists of two communication assemblies which are fully redundant. The system was developed and integrated under ESA contract by EADS Astrium in Toulouse, France.
Prior to its integration into the Progress vehicle, the complete PCE was checked out from 7 to 11 February by a combined ESA, industry and Russian team at the launch site in Baikonur. The equipment will be installed by the two astronauts who are now living and working in the Russian laboratory and habitation module "Zvezda", where the ATV will dock. The complete system will then be tested on the ISS in early April.
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