29 March 2012
The result of years of effort
The hooks of the ATV-3 Edoardo Amaldi closed just minutes after contact with the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday 29 March at 0:31 CET. The final approach phase of ESA’s spacecraft lasted several hours.
“This marks the culmination of years of hard work by many experts at the very top of their field,” said CNES President Yannick d’Escatha. “These men and women at the ATV Control Centre at CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre can be proud of what they have achieved together. They have flown the vehicle from its launch by Ariane 5 on 23 March to its docking with the ISS today.”
But the mission has only just started. In a few days’ time, the 6 astronauts aboard the ISS will be able to go inside the ATV, now an integral module of the station. There they will find personal belongings and above all 7 tonnes of freight—equipment, water, oxygen, fuel, etc.—waiting to be transferred to the station. The ATV-3 will begin its return journey in no more than 6 months after performing a series of vital manoeuvres to reboost the station’s orbit. It will be filled with waste and then undock from the ISS before burning up as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. The ATV-4 Albert Einstein is already being prepared for the next ATV flight.