ATV-3 docking tonight – live blog from the control centre in Toulouse
After a successful launch on board an Ariane 5 ES rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 23 March 2012, ATV-3, ‘Edoardo Amaldi’, is nearing the end of its journey to the International Space Station (ISS). It is scheduled to dock with the Zvezda module at 00:33 CEST tomorrow morning (29 March – 22:33 UTC [28 March]), where it will remain for five months.
If all goes to plan, the six astronauts on board the ISS will be receiving a very special ‘delivery’ in a matter of hours. ESA astronaut André Kuipers and his Russian colleague Oleg Kononenko will monitor the docking, and will intervene if necessary. ‘Edoardo Amaldi’ will deliver clean clothes, fresh food, air and water, experiments, replacement parts and various tools for maintenance work, medicines and medical supplies. ATV-3 is also carrying propellants for the Zvezda module, which can be used for performing avoidance manoeuvres in the event of a threat from space debris. In addition, ‘Edoardo Amaldi’ has supplies of propellants for its own main engines and will raise the ISS orbit by means of regular reboost manoeuvres throughout its stay.
Though the ATV docks autonomously with the ISS, using a GPS-based navigation system, a Russian radar system, a radio link to the Zvezda module, laser sensors and video cameras, the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, will be monitoring every stage of the docking process.
And this is where we will be tonight; from 18:00 onwards we will be reporting live from the ATV Control Centre. Follow us on this blog, on Twitter (@dlr_en) and Facebook. If there is anything specific that you would like to know, please post a comment or question and we will do our best to answer it.