News24

Space freighter starts death plunge

2012-10-02 20:34

Paris - A bus-sized craft that had delivered food to the International Space Station will re-enter Earth's atmosphere overnight for a controlled implosion over the South Pacific, the European Space Agency said on Tuesday.

The automated transfer vehicle (ATV) undocked from the ISS last Friday after a six-month visit.

Its undocking was delayed by three days because astronauts had sent the craft a wrong identification code.

Named after a 20th-century Italian physicist, the Edoardo Amaldi will exit its ISS orbit at 21:42 GMT on Tuesday, firing its engines for 14 minutes to place it on an Earth-bound suicide mission.

At 00:42 GMT the craft will fire its engines again, this time for a second, 15-minute "deorbit burn" - and will start falling to Earth about 20 minutes later.

Impact of the debris surviving the atmospheric burnout is scheduled for 01:30 GMT, according to an ESA blog.

The Edoardo Amaldi is the third of five ATVs that the space agency is providing for the ISS project.

The robot craft, each the size of a London double-decker bus, are designed to make one-way trips to the space station, hauling up tons of food, water, air, equipment and other supplies for the three people on board.

The ATVs also use on-board engines to give boosts to the ISS, whose altitude drops because it is in low orbit and dragged down by lingering atmospheric molecules.

At the end of their trip, laden with rubbish and human waste, the craft detach and burn up in a controlled destruction over the ocean.

The final two ATVs should be launched in 2013.