European space transporter ATV-2 'Johannes Kepler' ends its successful mission according to plan
Loaded with waste material, the second European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-2), Johannes Kepler, entered Earth's atmosphere shortly after performing its second de-orbit engine firing at 22:04 CEST on 21 June 2011 and burned up over the south Pacific. After more than four months in space, ATV Johannes Kepler undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) at 16:51 CEST on 20 June 2011. On board was a Re-entry Break-up Recorder, a special flight data recorder designed to log the mechanical stresses on the ATV during break-up and radio the data to the ground station via satellite.
On 12 and 15 June, the ATV-2 raised the orbit of the ISS by over 30 kilometres; further small orbit raising manoeuvres took place on 17 and 18 June. Since the docking of Johannes Kepler, the ISS has had its altitude increased by over 50 kilometres as a result of the ATV-2 orbit raising manoeuvres.
Following its launch by an Ariane 5ES on 16 February 2011, ATV Johannes Kepler docked with the ISS fully automatically at around 16:55 CET on 24 February. The ATV-2 delivered a total of 7.1 tons of freight to the ISS. Besides essential supplies for the astronauts such as food, clothing and drinking water, the cargo included replacement parts, experiments and fuel. The ATV-2 supplied the Russian Zvezda service module with roughly 850 kilograms of fuel on 15 May. In addition to raising the ISS orbit, it provided positional control on a number of occasions following the docking and undocking of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and the space shuttle. In the course of the ATV-2 mission, two space shuttles, the Japanese HTV space transporter and two Soyuz and two Progress spacecraft visited the ISS.
The third ATV, Edoardo Amaldi, will be transported to Kourou in August, where it will be prepared for launch in March 2012. ATV-4 Albert Einstein and ATV-5 are currently under construction at Astrium GmbH in Bremen. Launches are scheduled for 2013 and 2014.
The ATV is a European joint project under the leadership of the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission is being monitored from the ATV Control Centre in Toulouse. The DLR Space Administration team is responsible for programmatic control and represents German interests in the ESA ISS programme on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie; BMWi). EADS Astrium is responsible for industrial management of the project. DLR Oberpfaffenhofen is acting as the hub for communications between the control centres involved in the ATV mission.