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Cargo Craft Launches, Cosmonauts Conduct Spacewalk

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Feb 17, 2011 9:00 am via: NASA
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The European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV-2) “Johannes Kepler” launched as scheduled at 4:50:55 p.m. EST Wednesday atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the Arianespace launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. This was the 200th launch of an Ariane rocket, and the heaviest payload ever launched by Ariane 5.

The ATV-2 will enter Earth orbit for an eight-day rendezvous to the International Space Station. At the time of launch, the station was flying about 200 miles above the Bolivian/Peruvian border, northwest of La Paz, Bolivia.

ATV-2 is a pressurized unmanned cargo craft loaded with crew supplies, oxygen, propellant and research supplies. It is scheduled to automatically dock with the station’s Zvezda service module on Feb. 24 and provide the capability to reboost the station to a higher orbit, provide attitude control, help desaturate the complex’s control moment gyroscopes and perform any necessary debris avoidance maneuvers. Once its 96-day mission is complete, ATV will undock in early June and burn up as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, disposing of unneeded waste from the space station.

The launch of ATV on Wednesday does not necessarily move space shuttle Discovery’s target launch date from Feb. 24, as originally thought. The Flight Readiness Review on Friday will discuss the options and make a final decision on the STS-133 launch date.

Earlier Wednesday, Flight Engineers Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka re-entered and closed the hatch on the Pirs airlock, concluding Russia’s 28th spacewalk from the International Space Station. The 4-hour, 51-minute spacewalk ended at 1:21 p.m.

The spacewalking duo installed a pair of experiments outside the station’s Russian segment. The Molniya-Gamma experiment will observe radiation emitted during Earth-bound lightning and thunderstorms. The second experiment, Radiometria, will collect seismic information to better predict earthquakes.

The cosmonauts also removed and jettisoned a spacewalk foot restraint. The restraint, which was attached to the Zvezda service module, was jettisoned towards Earth in the opposite direction of the space station’s flight path.

Kondratyev and Skripochka then translated to the Zarya control module and retrieved two Komplast panels. The panels contain materials exposed to the outer space environment. Part of an international experiment, the observations will be used to determine the most durable materials for future spacecraft.

For the duration of the spacewalk the other four Expedition 26 crew members had split in teams of two inside the Russian segment. Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri were staying inside the Poisk mini-research module. Flight Engineers Catherine Coleman and Paolo Nespoli stayed in the U.S. segment, with access to the Rassvet mini-research module and their Soyuz. The precaution would have allowed them to use the Soyuz vehicles to return safely to Earth in an emergency.

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