Kourou, 16 February 2011 – At 9:50 p.m. (GMT), Ariane 5 launched the ATV Johannes Kepler into orbit.
Weighing in at 20.1 tonnes, this second ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) is the heaviest object to be launched into space by an Ariane 5.
Accomplishing such a feat required a special version of the Ariane 5, which was developed and manufactured by Astrium. The Ariane 5 ES has an EPS re-ignitable upper stage, a reinforced equipment bay and a flight program that was redeveloped for this specific mission. Alain Charmeau, CEO of Astrium Space Transportation, recently confirmed that "the re-ignitable upper stage has perfectly positioned the ATV in its intended orbit."
Alain Charmeau went on to express his delight with this latest successful launch: "This is the biggest event in space this year, and we have the teams at Astrium to thank for it. It was also the 42nd successful launch in a row for Ariane 5, for which Astrium is prime contractor. Today, we celebrate two major accomplishments for Astrium: the 200th flight of an Ariane, and the launch of a second ATV on a pre-programmed route to the International Space Station. Both these major programs conducted by the European space industry are under Astrium's responsibility. Both make use of the most cutting-edge technology that currently exists. And both are made possible by government support."
The mission of the ATV Johannes Kepler has only begun, as it will soon be embarking on the complicated phase when it will rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) and perform a docking manoeuvre. At that point, the ATV will become a fully integrated, inhabited module of the ISS.
Production is underway at Astrium on the next ATVs
The Johannes Kepler is the first of four series-produced ATVs ordered from Astrium by the European Space Agency (ESA). "The ATV 3 ‘Edoardo Amaldi’ has already made significant progress. We have also begun work on the ATV 4, and the initial structures of the ATV 5 have been delivered. We have also submitted an offer to ESA for other ATVs. We hope to get the green light for these projects this year if the decision is confirmed to extend the International Space Station programme to the year 2020," said Mr. Charmeau.
But the adventure in space has just begun for Europe. "We must build on the enormous amount of skills acquired by European industry and by Astrium in the ATV programme to develop Europe's future space programs," concluded Mr. Charmeau.
A special dossier full of informative articles and videos has been created about the ATV ‘Johannes Kepler’.
Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2009, Astrium had a turnover of €4.8 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and Astrium Services for comprehensive end-to-end value-added solutions covering secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, bespoke geo-information and navigation services worldwide.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, the Group – comprising Airbus, Astrium, Cassidian and Eurocopter – generated revenues of € 42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119,000.
Daniel Mosely (Astrium UK) Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180
Matthieu Duvelleroy (Astrium FR) Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32
Ralph Heinrich (Astrium GER) Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971
Francisco Lechón (Astrium SP) Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41