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Engineers fix glitch in new space cargo ship

News Team



Publicat Miercuri, 12 Martie 2008, ora 10:32

      Engineers have fixed a glitch in the European Space Agency's newly launched space cargo ship, though the exact cause of the problem has not yet been disclosed. Following the fix the spacecraft performed its first manoeuvres in space.
     
      Jules Verne, the first of five Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs), was launched on Sunday from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The ATVs will become one of the primary supply vessels for the International Space Station when NASA's space shuttles are retired in 2010.
     
      Though mission officials described Jules Verne's launch as "absolutely perfect", they noticed a glitch once the Ariane launch vehicle broke away and communications were established with the ATV.
     
      A detector noted a pressure anomaly in one of the ATV's four "propulsion chains". These are the valve and control systems between the tanks holding fuel and oxidiser and the thrusters, where they are mixed to propel the craft. There was a slight pressure difference in two pipes that separately ferry the fuel and oxidiser from the tanks to the thrusters.
      Ground tests
     
      An electronics box that detected the pressure difference then turned off the affected chain, rerouting the propellants through the other three chains. The box then turned itself off, "just in case the anomaly is in the box itself", said ESA's ATV programme manager John Ellwood at a press conference after the launch.
     
      Now, after working through the night, engineers have switched the electronics box back on. All of the ATV's systems are working perfectly, ESA spokesperson Franco Bonacina told New Scientist.
     
      Before they could restart the electronics box on the ATV itself, the engineers had to test ways of reconfiguring it on the ground, at a simulation facility in France run by ATV builder EADS Astrium.
     
      Later on Tuesday, the ATV performed its first manoeuvres in space, using its main engines to move closer to the orbit necessary to rendezvous with the space station.
     
      Even before the glitch was fixed, mission managers emphasised that the mission was not in any jeopardy, since the ATV can propel itself using only three propulsion chains.
     
      "We're not in a situation where the mission is in danger; what we are is one step closer to that situation," Alan Thirkettle, the ISS programme manager, told New Scientist late on Monday

© Copyright News Team
Sursa :   NewScientist.com
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