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European ATV set for launch to ISS next month

ATV approaching space station. An ESA illustration

PARIS (BNS): Europe's third automated transfer vehicle (ATV-3), designated Edoardo Amaldi, is getting ready to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on a supply mission next month.

The spacecraft, carrying fuel, water, oxygen, air and dry cargo for the space station crew members, is scheduled to lift off from the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana on March 9.

The ATV will be launched by the powerful Ariane 5 ES rocket at 10:00 GMT and will dock automatically with the orbital station at 01:38 GMT on March 19, remaining attached there until the end of August, according to the European Space Agency.

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

Each ATV is capable of carrying up to 6.6 tonnes of cargo to the orbital station. It is the biggest cargo carrier servicing the space station and a vital element of ISS logistics.

ESA plans to build at least five ATVs with launches about a year apart.



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