The European Space Agency’s fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) cargo ship has completed its two week trek to the International Space Station. Named after the 20th century Belgian astronomer, the “Georges Lemaître” docked automatically to the Zvezda service module’s aft port Aug. 12 at 9:30 a.m. EDT.
The ATV-5 launched atop an Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket July 29 from Kourou, French Guiana, carrying nearly seven tons of science, supplies, food and fuel to replenish the station crew.
During its slow, deliberate approach to the space station, the ATV-5 flew less than four miles underneath the station on Friday, Aug. 8 to test new rendezvous sensors and laser systems before looping above and behind the station for the final phase of its rendezvous. The advanced technology was tested for possible incorporation in the design of future European spacecraft.
ESA’s first ATV, the “Jules Verne,” launched from Kourou in March 2008 during Expedition 16 for a month-long trek to Zvezda’s aft port. The next three European resupply craft, the “Johannes Kepler,” the “Edoardo Amaldi” and the “Albert Einstein”, all launched from the same site at the Guiana Space Centre, docked to Zvezda and completed their missions with a destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean.
As the ATV-5 begins its six-month stay, another space freighter, the Cygnus commercial cargo craft from Orbital Sciences, is being prepared for its departure from the station’s Harmony module Friday at 6:40 a.m. EDT to complete a month-long delivery mission. Expedition 40 crew members Alexander Gerst of ESA and NASA’s Reid Wiseman will be inside the cupola to release Cygnus using the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
The “Georges Lemaître” is scheduled to end its stay at the station and complete its mission in January 2015. The ATV-5 will undock from Zvezda at the beginning of the year loaded with trash and discarded gear for a fiery disposal over the Pacific Ocean.