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ESA's Edoardo Amaldi ATV Docks With ISS

Video courtesy of NASA TV

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle or ATV Edoardo Amaldi successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 6:31 p.m EDT. This is the third of ESA’s unmanned spacecraft to travel to the orbiting laboratory.

The docking was conducted automatically to the aft section of the Zvezda module of the ISS. The hatch is slated to be opened on Thursday to put air ducts in place. The Edoardo Amaldi is carrying over seven tons worth of propellant, food and other supplies.

Video courtesy of ESA

The ATV’s prime contractor, EADS Astrium, worked with Aerojet to utilize four of the company’s R-4D-11 110 lbf class liquid bipropellant engines for the ATV. These engines constitute the main propulsion system for the ATVs. The vehicle’s flight profile included several burns of these engines.

“These engines were originally developed to provide reaction control for the Apollo missions to the moon, Aerojet’s R-4D rocket engines have been an integral part of human spaceflight for more than 50 years,” said Steve Harper, manager of the Bipropellant Propulsion product line at Aerojet.  “No R-4D has ever failed in flight during five decades of service with numerous missions, including the daring recovery of Apollo 13.  We look forward to continuing this engine’s legacy of reliability with its use on the ATV, the Orion service module and other ambitious space missions.”

The Automated Transfer Vehicle's control center is located in Toulouse, France. Flight controllers located there along with station crew members Andre Kuipers and Oleg Kononenko monitored the Edoardo Amaldi's arrival to the ISS. Photo Credit: ESA

The current station residents, consisting of the six-person Expedition 30 crew, moved their sleep schedules around some in order to be prepared for the docking of the Amaldi. In this case, they stayed up late to make sure that everything was going according to plan. Expedition 30 Flight Engineers Andre Kuipers and Oleg Kononenko in conjunction with ATV flight controllers back on earth (in Toulouse, France) monitored the Amaldi’s approach to the ISS.

The Edoardo Almaldi thundered out of Arianespace’s launch facility, located in Kourou, French Guiana nearly six days ago. Upon its arrival to the ISS, Dan Burbank, the station’s current commander, closed the station’s cupola’s shutters so as to avoid potential damage by the ATV’s exhaust plumes. The commander also turned off the station’s wireless system and videotaped the spacecraft’s arrival.

Expedition 30 Commander Dan Burbank took several precautionary measures prior to the Edoardo Amaldi's arrival to the International Space Station. He also photographed the uncrewed cargo ship's approach. Photo Credit: NASA

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