Feeds

Third European supply podule blasts off en route to space station

Robot freighters now coming off assembly line annually

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The third European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) robot supply craft to the International Space Station blasted off successfully from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 04:34 GMT this morning.

Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at livestream.com

The ATV, named Edoardo Amaldi after the famous Italian physicist, lifted off atop an Ariane V heavy lift rocket stack. The 20-tonne payload was the heaviest ever lifted by an Ariane.

Amaldi separated from the Ariane upper stage at 05:38 and has now deployed its solar panels. It is now manoeuvring towards rendezvous and orbit match with the ISS, and is expected to arrive at 22:34 GMT on 28 March.

European Space Agency chiefs were especially chuffed that they had managed to get Amaldi off the ground on schedule a year(ish) after the previous ATV Johannes Kepler. The ATVs were supposed to provide an annual service from the outset, but in fact Kepler arrived almost three years after the inaugural Jules Verne ATV-1.

“Europe providing an annual service to the Station becomes a reality due to the dedication, competence and interaction of our space industry, national agencies and ESA,” said ESA head honcho Jean-Jacques Dordain.

Actually Amaldi is set to arrive slightly over 13 months after Kepler, but hey, it's a big improvement and the ESA seems confident that the next two ATVs will at least arrive during the planned calendar years. And Europe has some reason to crow here, as the USA - following the retirement of the Space Shuttles - currently has no way of getting stuff up to the station at all.

However Europe can't at the moment get astronauts to and from the station, the ATVs being unmanned only. The only way to change crews on the orbiting outpost is the use of Russian Soyuz ships (Russia also sends up supplies and fuel on robot Progress craft).

The US has plans to come back to manned space, however, with upstart startup rocket firm SpaceX planning its first supply run to the ISS using its new Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule on April 30. SpaceX also aims to have a manned version of the Dragon flying crews up and down in the near future.

SpaceX will do these tasks using fairly minor amounts of NASA funding: the once-mighty US space agency intends to reserve most of its cash for its planned Space Launch System mega-rocket and Orion deep-space capsule, intended to carry astronauts to some place beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the 1970s moon missions. However there are grave doubts as to the realism of these NASA plans, which seem likely to be cripplingly expensive.

For now the ISS is the only place for astronauts and cosmonauts to go, so all parties will be glad to see the ATV programme on track. Amaldi is to stay docked at the station for five months, during which time it will serve as a manoeuvring thruster. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.