ATV ‘Johannes Kepler’ Launch to Space Station Delayed to Wednesday

by Nancy Atkinson on February 15, 2011

The European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-2 (ATV-2) “Johannes Kepler” launch that was scheduled for Tuesday Feb. 15 was scrubbed due to a technical issue on the launch pad, and the slip could affect which day space shuttle Discovery launches for STS-133. Technicians at Launch Complex 3 in Kourou, French Guiana are looking at the problem, but preliminary details indicate some erroneous data on the status of the tank levels for fuel on the Ariane 5 rocket. They will go over the data carefully and if everything looks good they try again on Wednesday, Feb. 16.

This launch slip could change the launch date for STS-133, which is now scheduled for Feb. 24. If the ATV does launch on Wednesday (or on Thursday or Friday of this week), the launch of STS-133 will move to Feb. 25. But if the ATV launch slips beyond Friday means that the STS-133 launch stays on Feb. 24.

You can watch the launch attempt on Wednesday on NASA TV, and coverage will begin at 4:15 EST (21:15 GMT), with launch time at 4:50 pm EST (21:50 GMT). This is second launch of an ATV, and the 200th Ariane 5 launch.

In the meantime, find out more about the building of the ATV in this great video from ESA.

This second ATV is named for German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler. It will carry 2690 kg (5,929 lbs) of cargo in its pressurized cabin, and also 99 kg (220 lbs) of oxygen for breathing and 850 kg (1,875 lbs) of rocket propellant for the space station’s Zvezda service module.

At about 4 and a half minutes before the scheduled launch, an indicator went “red,” meaning there was a problem. After the launch was officially scrubbed, Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of Arianespace spoke, and through a translator said, “Well as you have seen during the final countdown one of the lights went red. Since we had no launch window, there will be no other attempt. From what I was told, there was an erroneous piece of data coming from the filling of the launcher. Our teams are already working on that to see what is happening and to try another attempt tomorrow. I’m sorry, but you know this is a difficult exercise and it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time.”


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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