20-tonne space truck heads for ISS
Successful launch of the heavyweight Johannes Kepler
The European Space Agency's second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) yesterday blasted off en route to the International Space Station.
The Johannes Kepler rose heavenwards atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 21:50 GMT. The launch had previously been knocked back a day due to a minor technical glitch.
On the pad, ATV-2 weighed in at 20.06 tonnes, "the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe". It's carrying "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".
If all goes according to plan, it will dock "directly and autonomously" with the ISS's Zvezda module on Thursday, 24 February.
The Johannes Kepler is the first operational ATV, following the 2008 qualification flight of the Jules Verne. The next will be the Edoardo Amaldi (ATV-3), due for launch in around a year, followed by ATVs 4 and 5, slated to head into the heavens by 2014.
Once it's done its bit at the ISS, including using its own thrusters to "raise the Station’s orbit periodically in order to compensate for the natural decay caused by atmospheric drag", the Johannes Kepler will be filled with waste and redundant hardware and directed towards a final re-entry burn-up over the Pacific. ®
The delayed launch of the Johannes Kepler may impact on the planned 24 February lift-off of Discovery on its STS-133 mission to the ISS. NASA managers will decide tomorrow if it will have to be rescheduled.
Another frigging burn up?
Leave enough fuel in to go to parking orbit, and then when you've got a few of them, weld them together to form another space station...
Seriously, NASA, ESA, and the rest need to look at why so much serviceable stuff is designed to combust on re-entry, and whether we could do something more useful with it.
I'm always in awe of what these guys do, but it's tempered a little by the sheer amount of waste.
Re: Waste aside...
Yep, we still have war, famine, poverty and whatnot. The reason is that huge numbers of people are unable to think more than a very short time in the future, so that, e.g., taking things by force from neighbours sounds like a better idea than talking to them, preventing pregnancies sounds like too much hassle, giving away food to poor countries sounds better than setting up a local agricultural industry - and funds to pure research sound like wasted money.
By the way, you know all those countries that are only now finally clawing their way out of subsistence farming and into a modern economy? They wouldn't stand a chance without telecommunication satellites.
Something we may never see again.
Six spacecraft will be docked with the ISS later this month.
Two Soyuz capsules, one Progress, a European ATV, a Japanese HtV, and a Shuttle. To say nothing of the weight of it all.