The maiden voyage of the first European International Space Station (ISS) resupply spaceship is targeted for no earlier than 22 February.
Since early January, the launch campaign of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has intensified with the month-long loading operations. These operations take place in the huge fuelling chamber inside the vast S5 integration building at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Teams from Astrium sites in Bremen, Lampoldshausen (Germany), Stevenage (United Kingdom) and Les Mureaux (France) are in charge of these time-consuming and delicate operations. Wearing special protective suits, the teams work in three shifts. Specialists from Thales Alenia Space, Italy, are involved in loading the highly explosive pure oxygen gas.
“The engineers first created a vacuum in the ATV gas tank and its circuit. Then, after checking the system is leak-proof, they connected the oxygen tank to transfer the gas,” said Dominique Siruguet, ESA ATV Campaign Manager. “But before this, they had to implement many strict safety procedures and create a very clean environment. This is all time consuming but necessary to avoid any risk with the highly explosive and flammable oxygen.”
Many of the safety measures are needed to prevent any hydrocarbon particles from entering the on board and ground equipment, where they would present a fire risk. For this operation, a team of certified experts, different from the ‘scapemen’ who perform the propellant fuelling, wear white non-flammable suits to handle the oxygen.
From now until the end of the month, the largest quantity of propellant will be loaded on board Jules Verne: around 2 200 kg of MMH (Monomethylhydrazine) and 3 600 kg MON3 (Mixed Oxides of Nitrogen) propellant which will be used by ATV’s own propulsion system.
ATV will use these propellants for its autonomous navigation towards the International Space Station (ISS) and, once docked, to contribute to the Station's attitude and orbit control, including re-boost of the whole space complex. Already around 860 kg of nitrogen tetroxide oxidiser (N2O4) and Russian produced UDMH (Unsymmetrical dimehtylhydrazine) have been stored on board ATV.
With the amount of propellant in ATV about to exceed 4 tonnes, the safety rules at the Spaceport prohibit working on other satellites or spacecraft within the perimeter of the S5 integration building.
"In the first week of February, Jules Verne ATV – filled with a total 6.5 tonnes of four different propellants and 20 kg of oxygen – will be moved to the Final Assembly Building [BAF - Batiment d’Assemblage Final] where it will be mated to the Ariane 5 launcher. We then enter the Ariane 5/ATV 'combined operations plan', which ends with the final countdown," explains Nicolas Chamussy, ATV Programme Manager for EADS Astrium.
The whole Jules Verne ATV weighs 19.4 tonnes, including approximately 1 338 kg of ‘dry cargo’. During fuelling and oxygen operations, the ATV is electrically completely shut down for safety reasons. Each day the whole spacecraft is activated to check the spacecraft’s ‘health’, and charge the batteries once again.
Once in orbit, the 20 kg of oxygen carried up by Jules Verne ATV, is manually injected by the crew into the ISS atmosphere. For up to six months, the ATV remains attached, mostly in dormant mode with the hatch to the ISS open.
With the ATV docked, the Station crew can enter the cargo section and remove the payload: supplies, science hardware, and lightweight luggage bags. Meanwhile, the ATV's liquid tanks are connected to the Station's own plumbing and their propellant contents discharged.
According to the needs of the ISS and its partners, the ATV remains an integral Station element for up to six months, and delivers dry cargo, fuel, water and oxygen to the ISS.
Markus Bauer | alfa
Data storage using individual molecules
17.12.2018 | Universität Basel
Formed to Meet Customers’ Needs – New Laser Beams for Glass Processing
17.12.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
17.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
17.12.2018 | Architecture and Construction
17.12.2018 | Life Sciences