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Once upon a launch: Flight VA213 – Albert puts lasagne on the astronauts’ menu
June 5, 2013: launch of ATV-4, supply ship to the International Space Station.
On June 5, 2013 a specially adapted Ariane 5 rocket placed the 20.2 tons of the ATV-4 ‘Albert Einstein’ into orbit on its way to the International Space Station (ISS). © ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013
‘Albert Einstein’ was the fourth of a series of five Automated Transport Vehicles (ATV), completely automated cargo ships for the ISS. © Arianespace
The ATVs delivered essential supplies of fuel, food, water and equipment to the astronauts on board the ISS. At the end of their mission they were filled with waste, de-docked and disintegrated as they re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. © ESA–CNES–Arianespace Optique Video CSG
The ATV is the biggest payload (20 tons, 10m x 4.5m) ever lofted by the Ariane rocket, around twice that of a “standard” mission. And the target orbit is unusual: circular, as opposed to elliptical, as for standard missions. © ESA-CNES
This needed a special version of Ariane 5: Ariane 5 ES, reinforced and with a re-ignitable upper stage (Aestus engine). © ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013
Despite its mass of nearly 20 tonnes and 22 metre span, the ATV is so precise that it can dock autonomously with the ISS at a speed of 28,000 km/h and with a precision of less than 10 cm. © ESA
ATV-4 brought the largest assortment ever to the ISS. In addition to toothbrushes, t-shirts, socks and essential equipment, astronauts could enjoy peanut butter, waffles, strawberries, lasagne, parmesan, and macadamia nuts. © ESA
When the Ariane 5 ES blasted off on June 5, 2013, it had other smaller, passengers on board – a set of cameras which recorded the very first spectacular video footage of the ATV separating from the rocket and being released into free flight.
The images offer a close-up perspective on the dynamic processes taking place during the separation of the ATV from Ariane. © ESA-NASA
Ariane 5 ES successfully launched all five ATVs between 2008 and 2014. © ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013