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Ariane 5 gets go ahead to launch European cargo craft to ISS

Artist's impression of ATV docking. An ESA photo

PARIS (BNS): European workhorse rocket Ariane 5 has been cleared to launch the third automated transfer vehicle (ATV-3) on a supply and servicing mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 23.

The rocket will roll out from its final integration building to the launch pad on Wednesday to lift off its heaviest payload ever - the automated transfer vehicle weighing over 20 metric tons.

The launch timing for the mission is set at 1:34 am local time (0434 GMT) in French Guiana on Friday.

Earlier, Arianespace had rescheduled the mission to facilitate additional checks on the ATV. The ATV-3, designated Edoardo Amaldi, was originally scheduled to be launched on March 9.

The spacecraft, carrying 6.6 tonnes of fuel, water, oxygen, air and dry cargo for the space station crew members, will make an automated docking with Russia's Zvezda module in the orbital post five days later.

In addition to serving as a resupply spacecraft, the ATV also will function as a "tug" while docked to the crewed orbital facility for up to six months, Arianespace said.

Europe has been supporting space supply missions along with Russia's Progress spacecraft and Japan's H-II Transfer Vehicles after the retirement of US' Space Shuttles.

The ATVs are contributing to the support and maintenance of the ISS by supplying cargo since 2008 when the first ATV, Jules Verne, was launched on March 9. The second spacecraft of the series, Johannes Kepler, went on its mission in February, 2011.

ESA plans to build at least five ATVs and launch each every year.


Ariane 5  ATV  ISS  

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