Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ESA ATV-3 Edoardo Amaldi: Europe’s third cargo vehicle docks with the Space Station

Video still of ATV Edoardo Amaldi docking with the International Space Station. The image is taken from the same video that is used by astronauts and the ATV Control Centre to monitor the approach.

ESA’s ATV Edoardo Amaldi has completed the first stage of its docking with the Russian Zvezda module of the International Space Station.

The docking occurred smoothly when ATV’s docking probe was captured by Zvezda’s docking cone at 00:31 CEST ( 22:31 GMT).

The docking probe is now retracting, to be followed by the hooks between the two craft closing. The data and electrical connections will then be established.

The 20-tonne vessel, flying autonomously while being continuously monitored from the ground, docked with the 450-tonne orbital complex with a precision of 6 cm as they circled Earth at more than 28 000 km/hr.

An Automated Transfer Vehicle docking with the International Space Station.

Credits: ESA - D.Ducros

“No-one should consider that this smooth and gentle docking between these two giant spacecraft is either an easy or routine task,” said Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.

“The technologies we have demonstrated in operational conditions with the ATVs have a tremendous potential for future human spaceflight and exploration missions.”

The docking concluded a step-by-step approach to the orbital outpost by the large freighter. The vehicle manoeuvred autonomously during these critical operations, monitored by a separate onboard control system to ensure the safety of the Station and its crew.

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