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Astrium ATV Load, Thermal Tests To Begin (Nov. 13)



BREMEN--- With freight for space exploration on board, the "Beluga" transport aircraft of Airbus, took off from Bremen on Friday heading for Amsterdam. In its cargo hold was the Structure Test Model of the Unmanned Space Transport Vehicle ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) that will supply the International Space Station.

The model was built by the Space Infrastructure Division of Astrium. After arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, the ATV "Spacecraft", consisting of the propulsion and avionics (on-board electronics systems) module, will travel on to Noordwijk by ship. Then the ATV spacecraft will be brought together with the Integrated Cargo Carrier (payload part) in the ESA test center ESTEC and subjected to extensive load tests as well as thermal and acoustic tests until the end of 2002.

On behalf of the European Space Agency ESA, the Launch Vehicles Division of the EADS European Aeronautic Defense and Space company is responsible for developing the ATV and the Astrium Division Space Infrastructure is responsible for its production.

ATV belongs to one of the biggest and technically most sophisticated space vehicles that have ever been developed and built in a European co-operation. "ATV is a completely autonomous space transport vehicle. The specific know-how of Astrium consists in the development of the propulsion system as well as of the avionics and the necessary software for fully automatic docking with the station. Know-how that first had to be worked for and accumulated in Europe over the past few years", pointed out Hans-Jürgen Koopmann, Overall Project Manager of the ATV project at Astrium in Bremen on Friday. Know-how in this form has so far only been available within the framework of Russian and American space projects.

The ATV, almost ten metros long and 4.5 metros in diameter, can transport a total payload of 9.5 tons to the International Space Station. This includes not only supplies such as drinking water, food and fuel but also experimenting facilities. The ATV will be launched from the spaceport in Kourou (French Guiana) with the European launch vehicle Ariane 5. After being deployed from the launcher, the unmanned transport vehicle independently targets the station and docks onto a Russian port completely automatically. After being unloaded, it takes the waste materials from operation of the space station on board and burns out under control in the atmosphere during the return flight to Earth.

In addition, the ATV fulfils a further important task. Because of the residual atmosphere that still exists at an altitude of 400 kilometers and the large surface area of the space station, the latter steadily loses altitude and has to be lifted into a higher orbit again at regular intervals. During the docked-on phase, which may last anything up to six months, the ATV carries out this so-called re-boost maneuver.

The ATV development costs amount to some Euro 700 million, and the production cost is Euro 100 million for each vehicle. The plans envisage the production of nine units. The first flight unit is to travel to the International Space Station in August 2004; the first production unit is to follow two years later.

Astrium, Europe's leading space company, is a joint venture owned 75% by EADS European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company and 25% by BAE Systems. In 2000 Astrium had a combined turnover of 2.03 billion Euro, covering science and Earth observation, military observation and communications, telecommunications, navigation and ground systems, launchers and orbital infrastructure. The Company employs over 8 000 employees in France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain.

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Unmanned Space Transport Vehicle ATV Flies With The Beluga