Feeds

Twenty-tonne space truck poised for ISS trip

'Heaviest payload ever launched by Europe'

The Power of One Infographic

The European Space Agency's latest Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is poised for lift-off at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, and if its 20-tonne bulk makes it off the pad on 15 February, it'll be "the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe".

The Johannes Kepler, named in honour of the German astronomer and mathematician, is packed with a 7-tonne payload, comprising "4,534kg of propellant for International Space Station reboost and attitude control", "1,600kg of dry cargo, 850kg of propellant for Russia’s Zvezda module and 100kg of oxygen".

Artist's impression of the ATV creeping up on the ISS. Pic: ESA - D. Ducros

The ATV is Europe's first operational space van, following the qualification flight of the Jules Verne back in 2008. To ensure a successful mating with the ISS, it boasts "high-precision navigation systems, highly redundant flight software and a fully autonomous collision-avoidance system with its own independent power supplies, control and thrusters".

Once docked, the Johannes Kepler will spend three-and-a-half months at the ISS, during which it'll use its own thrusters, fuelled by the aforementioned reboost and attitude control propellant, to "raise the Station’s orbit periodically in order to compensate for the natural decay caused by atmospheric drag".

If necessary, it'll also perform the useful task of shifting the ISS out of the way of space debris.

Cutaway view of the Johannes Kepler. Pic: ESA - D. Ducros

Before departing the orbiting outpost in June, the Johannes Kepler will be filled with "waste bags" and redundant hardware ahead of a de-orbit and re-entry burn-up over the Pacific.

The ATV's launch atop an Ariane 5 is scheduled for 22:08 GMT on 15 February. The ESA has more on the mission here, and details of the live lift-off broadcast here. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.