MOSCOW, October 28 (RIA Novosti) – Europe’s ATV-4 space freighter will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday and will enter the Earth’s atmosphere five days later, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
The space freighter, which carried a record amount of cargo among all ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) spacecraft and became the heaviest ever payload carried by an Ariane rocket, will set another record on Monday. It will take the largest ever amount of waste from the orbital station.
A series of maneuvers will be carried out in the next five days to position the spacecraft exactly 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) below the station. The reentry procedure is slated to begin around noon GMT on November 2.
ISS crew members will observe how the spacecraft disintegrates above a non-navigational area in the Pacific Ocean in order to obtain data that might be useful for calibrating future reentries.
“To close the mission with such a delicate but spectacular operation is a fitting end to all the hard work of the people involved,” Jean-Michel Bois, who heads the ATV operations team at the control center in Toulouse, was quoted as saying by an ESA statement.
The first ATV, Jules Verne, was launched in 2008, delivering about 4.5 metric tons of food, fuel and equipment to the ISS. ATV-2, named after Johannes Kepler, was launched in February 2011. ATV-3, Edoardo Amaldi, undocked from the ISS in September of 2012 after spending almost half a year at the station.
The final fifth mission is scheduled for June 2014. The ATV-5 spacecraft will be named after Belgian physicist Georges Lemaitre.