Ariane 5 blasts off on Feb 15 from the European spaceport of Kourou for the International Space Station. This 200th mission for the ArianeSpace heavy lift rocket will loft Europe's 20-ton space freighter, ATV-Johannes Kepler, into a low-Earth orbit. The milestone outing for Ariane 5 will be a re-supply mission to the ISS. The European Space Agency envisions its ATV technology as a possible direction for crew transportation.
After separating from the Ariane, the freighter, carrying more than six tons of fuel, air, food and equipment for the ISS, will use its own thrusters to get to the ISS. With the retirement of the NASA Space Shuttle, the ISS partners will lose a major capability to return heavy equipment to Earth for replacement or upgrade. The ESA see the Advanced Reentry Vehicle (ARV) concept as a potential solution to the challenge of returning payloads and goods from the ISS and any future orbital infrastructures. (WRITTEN Dec 2010)
Date written/update: 2011-02-15