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ESA International Space Station News Update

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Mon Nov 20, 2006 7:39 pm
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An update on Europe’s upcoming activities for the International Space Station (ISS) – including three astronaut missions, the launch of Europe’s Columbus laboratory and the inaugural flight of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV).

The ISS will grow considerably in the next few years with the addition of new solar panel generators and three research labs. As one of the ISS partners, ESA will be involved in many activities.
During his six-month stay, German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, a member of the permanent ISS crew since July this year, is devoting 136 hours to research experiments. Another ESA astronaut, Christer Fuglesang, from Sweden, is training at NASA’ s Johnson Space Center, in Houston. Fuglesang will make his first mission to the Space Station in December after launch on board Space Shuttle mission STS-116. During the twelve-day mission, Fuglesang will contribute to Station assembly by taking part in two spacewalks.

The Columbus laboratory is Europe’s main contribution to the ISS. ESA German astronaut Hans Schlegel will be on the Space Shuttle mission that will attach Columbus to the ISS. But before the laboratory can be attached, in August 2007 another ESA astronaut, the Italian Paolo Nespoli, will deliver Node-2, an important building block for the further expansion of the Station.

Another major European contribution to the ISS is the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), due for launch in summer 2007. It will carry 8.5 tonnes of cargo to the ISS, including food, air and water for the crew.

Photo favourite: ATV rendezvous simulation

Tests conducted at Val de Reuil, France, to simulate the rendezvous of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) with the International Space Station (ISS). Sensors mounted on an articulated industrial robotic arm (image) acted as the ATV, whilst a 120-tonne mobile platform represented the ISS. During simulations the platform was made to approach the robotic arm in a motion identical to the one expected when the real vehicles rendezvous in space next year.

For the first time, this rendezvous test campaign has made different systems work successfully together: on the one hand, the ATV flight software, the flight sensors and the rendezvous trajectories and on the other hand, the sophisticated motion simulation hardware and software developed by ESA with Astrium ST assistance in Val de Reuil.

ATV sensors mounted on robotic arm for rendezvous simulation

The ATV rendezvous simulation was as realistic as possible – using a mock-up of the aft end of the ISS Service Module

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