Liftoff of an Ariane 5 launcher from Europeâ
Europe launched the last of its ATV cargo spacecraft Tuesday, marking the end of a six-year mission to keep the International Space Station stocked with supplies.
The Automated Transfer Vehicle, which was sent into space on top of an Ariane 5 launcher from Kourou, French Guiana, is basically an unmanned cargo box — a spacecraft roughly the size of the old Apollo command module.
The European Space Agency had it running missions to the ISS every 17 months or so, where it would deliver 6.6 tons of equipment — including food, water and even air supplies.
There was never a return journey for the ATV — at least not a complete one. It was designed to burn up during reentry, after astronauts on board the space station loaded it with waste.
This last flight is no exception. Euronews reports ESA engineers have included an onboard camera on this flight, to capture and transmit images of the disintegration process.
ESA representatives say they’ll use what they’ve learned during the ATV program to help along NASA’s Orion spacecraft — the next generation of manned space vehicles.
ISS supply operations, meanwhile, will continue with missions from Russia and the U.S. — with the help of SpaceX and other private companies.
Tags: ISS, SPACE, US & World, WORLD