February 16, 2011

Delayed Ariane 5 Launch Now Scheduled For Wednesday

Tuesday's scheduled launch of an Ariane 5 rocket bound for the International Space Station (ISS) was postponed for at least 24 hours due to a technical issue, various media outlets are reporting.

The rocket, which was to propel the Johannes Kepler automatic transfer vehicle (ATV)--the largest payload every carried by an Ariane rocket--on an eight-day journey to deliver supplies to the ISS crew, was set to launch from a European Space Agency (ESA) facility in French Guiana at 7:13 local time.

According to BBC News Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos, "Telemetry suggested the Ariane had a measurement fault in its fuelling system." The launch is now currently scheduled for 6:50pm local time on Wednesday.

"During final countdown one of the authorization parameters went red," Jean-Yves Le Gall, president of the Arianespace rocket launch company told Franck Leconte of Reuters on Tuesday. "From what I was told there was erroneous data coming from a fuelling system."

Since the ATV needs to be docked at the ISS before the launch of the NASA space shuttle Discovery, that craft's scheduled February 24 launch could potentially be affected as well.

"While there is the potential for an ATV launch slip to affect the targeted launch date of space shuttle mission STS-133, Tuesday's scrub does not automatically impact STS-133," NASA said in a statement on their official website.

"If ATV2 launches Wednesday, then STS-133's target date would move to Feb. 25," they added. "However, a longer ATV slip beyond Friday would result in STS-133 remaining on track to launch on Feb. 24 at 4:50 p.m. EST."

According to the ESA, the ATV, which was named in honor of the famous German astronomer, is approximately 10 meters high with a 4.5 meter diameter. It utilizes a 45 cubic meter pressurized module and a Russian docking system similar to that of a Soyuz rocket.

The Johannes Kepler is said to be able to carry three-times the cargo of the Russian Progress vehicle and has a 22 meter wingspan with its solar wings deployed, the agency said in a February 3 press release. It will be delivering food, fuel, and oxygen to the ISS crewmembers.

In other ISS-related news, crew members have completed preparations for a Wednesday spacewalk by Russians Dmitry Kondratyev and Oleg Skripochka, according to NASA's official website.

"During the six-hour excursion slated to begin at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, the two spacewalkers will outfit and retrieve scientific equipment from the exterior of the Russian segment of the station," the American space agency said.


Image Caption: This image was taken during the transfer of the Ariane 5 rocket to the Launch pad on Feb. 14, 2011, at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Photo courtesy of ESA/Stephane Corvaja


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