ATV preparing for fiery destruction

Jun 20, 2011
ATV Jules Verne: mission accomplished! This video capture shows ATV-1 after undocking on 5 September 2008. Credits: ESA TV

ATV Johannes Kepler has been an important part of the International Space Station since February. Next week, it will complete its mission by undocking and burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere high over an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean.

Serving the is a valuable job but it will come to a spectacular end: ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, packed with Station rubbish, will deliberately plummet to its destruction on Tuesday in Earth’s atmosphere.

Just like the tonnes of natural space debris that collide with our planet every day, the 10-tonne ferry will burn up on reentry.

Only a few hardy pieces might survive and splash into the uninhabited South Pacific. The area’s air and sea traffic has been warned and a no-fly zone will prevent any accidents.

The racks inside have been filled with some 1200 kg of waste bags and unwanted hardware by the crew.  

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Animation of the ISS reboost performed by ATV Jules Verne. The Station's altitude naturally decreases with atmospheric drag. Regular reboosts push it back to a higher altitude. Reboosts can be provided by the Russian Progress, the ISS itself and ATV. Credits: ESA

Mission so far
 
ATV Johannes Kepler delivered about seven tonnes of much-needed supplies to the Space Station, including 1170 kg of dry cargo, 100 kg of oxygen, 851 kg of propellants to replenish the Station tanks and 4535 kg of fuel for the ferry itself to boost the outpost’s altitude and make other adjustments.

ATV-2 manoeuvred the complex on 2 April to avoid a collision with space debris.

During the hectic mission of Johannes Kepler, two Space Shuttles and Japan’s HTV cargo carrier visited the Station, along with two Progress and Soyuz spacecraft. These required several changes of Station attitude, mostly controlled by ATV’s thrusters.
 
Big boosts and preparations for dive
 
ATV’s last important task was to give the Station’s orbit a big boost. One important sequence was performed 12 June, another on 15 June and the last one this afternoon, 17 June.

The combined effect of these manoeuvres was to raise the Station’s orbit to around 380 km.

First images received from the DC-8 aircraft that observed the reentry of ATV Jules Verne over the Pacific Ocean on 29 September 2008. Credits: ESA

The crew will close the hatches between the Station and ATV-2 on Sunday afternoon at 15:30 GMT (17:30 CEST). Undocking follows on Monday, at 14:51 GMT (16:51 CEST), with ATV’s thrusters gently increasing the distance from the outpost.

On 21 June, Johannes Kepler will fire its engines twice to descend from orbit.

The first burn, at 17:07 GMT (19:07 CEST) will drop it towards Earth. The second burn, at 20:05 GMT (22:05 CEST), will direct it precisely towards its Pacific target.

Hitting the upper , ATV will tumble, disintegrate and burn, and any remains will strike the ocean at around 20:50 GMT (22:50 CEST).

Useful up to last moments
 
Some aspects of a controlled destructive entry are still not well known, so ATV’s last moments will be recorded by a prototype ‘black box’.

The Reentry Breakup Recorder will gather measurements on the location, temperature, pressure and attitude of the vehicle’s breakup before ejecting.

Once it reaches an altitude of about 18 km, it will transmit the information via the Iridium satphone system.

With this last phone call home, will be productive right to the very end of a fruitful mission.

Explore further: Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Europe's ATV space ferry ready for launch

Feb 03, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESA's latest Automated Transfer Vehicle is ready for launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday, 15 February at 22:08 GMT from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. ...

European space freighter poised for suicide plunge

Jun 17, 2011

A European freighter will be destroyed by atmospheric burn-up next week after completing its supply mission to mankind's orbital outpost, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.

Record boost for ATV to raise ISS orbit

Jun 20, 2008

For the second time since April, ESA's Jules Verne ATV was used to raise the orbit of the International Space Station yesterday. A record boost from the 20 minute burn of the Automated Transfer Vehicle's main engines successfully ...

Successful re-entry marks bright future for ATV

Sep 29, 2008

Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Jules Verne successfully completed its six-month ISS logistics mission today with its controlled destructive re-entry over a completely uninhabited area of ...

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

1 hour ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

1 hour ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

2 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

21 hours ago

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

23 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

A sharp eye on Southern binary stars

Unlike our sun, with its retinue of orbiting planets, many stars in the sky orbit around a second star. These binary stars, with orbital periods ranging from days to centuries, have long been the primary ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Astronaut salary

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear energy

Small underground nuclear power plants that could be cheaper to build than their behemoth counterparts may herald the future for an energy industry under intense scrutiny since the Fukushima disaster, the ...

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...