The first ever laser-guided docking in space will be performed next month as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) launches to the International Space Station (ISS).
‘This is a major project for ESA and our industrial partners,’ said Alberto Novelli, head of mission operations at the ATV control centre in Toulouse, France. ‘It will perform the first truly automated ISS docking and operations are a true trilateral effort, involving ESA, NASA and ROSCOSMOS, the Russian space agency. It’s also a first in the ISS programme.’
In the past few months three control centres, Toulouse, Houston and Moscow, have completed a demanding series of joint simulations. These included four rendezvous (where two simulations went all the way to docking), one docking simulation, one undocking and two reboosts (in which the ATV’s engine is used to boost the ISS).
The ATV is scheduled for launch onboard an Ariane 5 rocket on March 8.