At 2347GMT on 29 July 2014, the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) final Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV 05 (Georges Lemaitre) was launched into orbit on top of an Arianespace-operated Ariane 5ES launch vehicle. The lift off of flight VA219 took place from the Kourou launch site in French Guiana. The flight was the 60th successful flight of the Ariane 5 launch vehicle family.
The 20 metric ton disposable freighter spacecraft is carrying several tonnes of food and supplies to the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). It was the last of five examples of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) launched. This ship was named after Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Physicist and priest who first came up with the “Big Bang” theory of how the Universe was created. ATV 05 is due to dock with the ISS on 12 August 2014.
During the final approach to the ISS a new infrared camera and a new laser Lidar system will be tested. After it has made all of its cargo delivery, ATV 05 will undock and re-enter on a specially commanded trajectory to test prediction methods on what engineers think might happen to the International Space Station on its eventual decay or commanded re-entry.
Comment by David Todd: The ATV programme has been a mixed success. While all five ATV craft were successfully launched and were docked with the ISS, with development costs included, at circa US$1 billion a piece, they were very expensive. Still the technology was and is impressive as evidenced by the fact that NASA has chosen, albeit with a financial incentive from ESA, to use ATV as the basis of the manned Orion spacecraft’s service module.