Tuesday, February 15, 2011

European Freighter Set For Launch To Station

Blogger Note, 4:45 p.m.: Live NASA TV coverage is under way.

A powerful European Ariane 5 rocket is being readied for the planned launch this evening of a supply-laden cargo carrier destined for the International Space Station, and you can watch the action live here in The Flame Trench.

The Ariane 5 and its cargo -- Europe's second Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV-2 -- are slated to blast off from Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, South America, at 5:13 p.m. EST today. Live NASA TV coverage of the countdown and launch will begin at 4:45 p.m. EST. Click the NASA TV box on the right to launch our NASA TV viewer and live coverage.

An on-time launch would lead to an ATV-2 docking at the station on Feb. 23, the day before the planned launch of shuttle Discovery to the same destination.

In fact, the timing of the two launches are inextricably tied together at this point. Consider this:

++ If the ATV-2 launches today, the carrier would arrive at the station on Feb. 23 and Discovery would remain slated for a Feb. 24 launch.

++ If the ATV-2 is scrubbed today and launches Wednesday, the launch of Discovery would slip to Feb. 25 to allow for a Feb. 24 ATV-2 docking at the station.

++ If the ATV-2 is scrubbed today and Wednesday, then the European Space Agency would stand down for 48 hours to refuel the Ariane 5 and the next launch attempt would be Friday.

++ If the ATV-2 launches Friday, then Discovery's launch would slip to Feb. 27.

++ If the ATV-2 slips beyond Friday, then the Europeans could proceed with launch at any point and the cargo carrier would loiter in orbit until after Discovery departs the space station.

The ATV-2 launch and subsequent arrival at the station would mark the third major supply delivery to the outpost in the past few weeks. A Japanese HTV cargo carrier and a Russian Progress space freighter both arrived at the station after late January launches.

Should the ATV-2 and Discovery join the Japanese and Russian carriers at the station, it would mark the first time all vehicles currently flying to the station are simultaneously docked at the outpost. Two Russian Soyuz crew transports also are berthed at the complex.

The U.S. and its global partners are considering a plan to have the Expedition 26 crew back their Soyuz craft away from the station to photograph all the vehicles at the outpost.

No comments: