While much of the world wonders what the United States will do next with it space program, others have taken up the banner. One of them, Europe’s European Space Agency (ESA), has been quietly, but steadily building one of the best space programs in the world. To wit, they have just announced, as reported by the AFP Newswire via the StraightTimes, the successful launch of a rocket carrying an automated freighter to the International Space Station (ISS). The BBC is also running a story on the launch and how the freighter works.
With the cessation of the Space Shuttle program, many have wrongly assumed that the only way to get supplies to and from the ISS was by hooking up with the Russian space program. This latest mission by ESA shows just how wrong that assumption is. The Newswire is reporting that a 20 metric ton automated freighter was sent aloft by a modified Arianne 5 rocket from the European spaceport in French Guiana. The freighter, named EdoardoAmaldi, after the famous Italian physicist, will separate from the rocket and then head into orbit all on its own. Once there, it will meet up and dock, automatically, with the ISS. Once that happens, cargo will be unloaded by the crew and garbage and other materials will be loaded back into the freighter, which will then separate from the ISS and begin a slow descent back down towards Earth where it and its unwanted cargo will burn up in the atmosphere.
The BBC, notes that despite Britain’s refusal to join its continental counterparts in adopting the Euro, it is still very much a part of Europe and is a full partner in the ESA, and as such, has just as much at stake in the success of the program. It notes also, that the vehicle is not a freighter, it’s actually called an Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) but acknowledges its role is virtually identical to ships that traverse the oceans specifically to carry cargo. They also note that this is the third such ATV mission after two prior ATV’s were sent to the ISS in 2008 and 2011. Less than truckload
As payback for resupplying the ISS, Europe has earned the honor of having one European astronaut live aboard the station at all times. Currently, that would be Dutchman Andre Kuipers.
If successful, the Newswire continues, the transfer of cargo from the EdoardoAmaldi to the ISS will be the largest ever for any space station.