Launch of the European Space Agency's expendable supply ship for the International Space Station (ISS), the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), will be delayed from its original October date to at least early 2006, and more likely May of next year.

The ATV, which will dock with the ISS for three months at a time, will carry food, water and equipment supplies and provide an altitude boost for the ISS. The maiden flight has been delayed by continuing failure-mode software development and launch-window timing changes related to Russian ISS missions and NASA's Space Shuttle return-to-flight schedules.

"Over the last year we have been refining failure scenarios that could possibly occur," says John Ellwood, ESA's ATV programme manager. "No one has tried to dock anything this big before. After 15 May we can talk about a real docking window. It will be no earlier than the end of February [2006]." However, plans for a possible Progress resupply flight on 29 April 2006 mean the ATV launch will likely be in May.

Because it will be the ATV's maiden flight, planners want to ensure its timing prevents any possible problems impacting on other ISS launches.


Source: Flight International