The European Space Agency has released a remarkable time-lapse video showing a cargo spacecraft departing from the International Space Station, the last European-led Automated Transfer Vehicle to be sent by to the ISS during a seven-year supply programme.
The video released today, shows the “Georges Lemaitre” ATV-5, the fifth and final spacecraft in a series of European supply vehicles to be sent to the ISS, leaving the craft’s docking bay before beginning its descent towards earth.
Early on Saturday morning, the “Lemaitre” ATV-5 was captured undocking from the aft port of the craft’s Service Module, before moving safely away from the ISS and being deorbited on Sunday afternoon. The ESA reported that the “Lemaitre” ATV-5 re-entered the earth’s atmosphere at around 6pm GMT on Sundayand safely broke up.
Commenting after the flight, Thomas Reiter, Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations at the ESA, said: "It is with a feeling of pride that we look back at our accomplishments on the ATV programme."
The video marked the end of the six-year programme that has seen the ESA send five different cargo spacecraft deliver an estimated 34 tonnes to the ISS, including 8 tonnes of food, as well as spare parts and other equipment.
The “Lemaitre” ATV-5 follows the “Jules Verne” ATV-1 launched in March 2008, the “Johannes Kepler” ATV-2 which blasted off in February 2011, the ”Edoardo Amaldi“ ATV-3 in March 2012, and the ”Albert Einstein“ ATV-4 which was sent in June 2013.
The launch of the Lemaitre ATV-5 on 29 July 2014 was the biggest of the five, setting the record for the heaviest Ariane 5 take off ever recorded.
Japan’s H-II vehicle and Russia’s Progress crafts are set to continue supplying the space station, with Russia’s Progress 58 cargo craft set to be launched on Tuesday. Nasa are currently working with private space companies SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to use their crafts to supply the ISS.
Following on from their successful launch and re-entry of the IXV last week, the ESA will use the data taken from the craft’s re-entry to further develop its reusable spacecraft programme.