Three weeks into delicate fuelling operations, Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle has also been successfully loaded with oxygen. In orbit this will be transferred to the International Space Station's atmosphere for the crew to breathe.
The maiden voyage of the first European International Space Station (ISS) resupply spaceship is targeted for no earlier than 22 February.
Since early January, the launch campaign of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has intensified with the month-long loading operations. These operations take place in the huge fuelling chamber inside the vast S5 integration building at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Teams from Astrium sites in Bremen, Lampoldshausen (Germany), Stevenage (United Kingdom) and Les Mureaux (France) are in charge of these time-consuming and delicate operations. Wearing special protective suits, the teams work in three shifts. Specialists from Thales Alenia Space, Italy, are involved in loading the highly explosive pure oxygen gas.
The engineers first created a vacuum in the ATV gas tank and its circuit. Then, after checking the system is leak-proof, they connected the oxygen tank to transfer the gas, said Dominique Siruguet, ESA ATV Campaign Manager. But before this, they had to implement many strict safety procedures and create a very clean environment. This is all time consuming but necessary to avoid any risk with the highly explosive and flammable oxygen.
Many of the safety measures are needed to prevent any hydrocarbon particles from entering the on board and ground equipment, where they would present a fire risk. For this operation, a team of certified experts, different from the scapemen who perform the propellant fuelling, wear white non-flammable suits to handle the oxygen.
From now until the end of the month, the largest quantity of propellant will be loaded on board Jules Verne: aroun
|Contact: Markus Bauer|
European Space Agency