HOUSTON - NASA Television coverage of the maiden launch of the European Space Agency's "Jules Verne" Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV, to the International Space Station will begin Saturday, March 8, at 9:15 p.m. CST.
Liftoff of the ATV on an Ariane 5 rocket is set for 10:04 p.m. CST from the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana. Television coverage originating from the launch site will be provided by ESA and Arianespace. The launch coverage will air live on NASA TV and will include supplementary coverage originating from NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The ATV launch window is instantaneous. NASA TV will continue its coverage until ATV's solar arrays are deployed, about one hour and 36 minutes after launch.
If the launch is postponed, another opportunity is available Sunday, March 9. NASA TV coverage would begin at 9:45 p.m. CDT.
The ATV reaches its preliminary orbit about nine minutes after liftoff. At that time, its engines will fire for eight minutes to place the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit. About 45 minutes later, a second engine firing will circularize the ATV's orbit prior to spacecraft separation.
The ATV is a 22-ton unpiloted resupply ship that will carry up to eight tons of cargo to the complex. The vehicle will have the capability to reboost the station's altitude through its four primary engines. Along with the Russian Progress cargo craft that periodically carry supplies to the station, the ATV also will transport equipment, experiments and fuel to the complex. The spacecraft will be controlled by engineers at the ESA ATV Control Center in Toulouse, France, working together with flight controllers at the Russian Mission Control Center in Korolev, outside Moscow, and at Johnson.
Once in orbit, the ATV will undergo four weeks of extensive systems tests, including two approaches to the station to simulate rendezvous and contingency techniques. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the automated flight activities for ATV when it is in close proximity to the station on March 31 and when it docks on April 3. A post-docking briefing from the Johnson also is planned for April 3.
The ATV will remain at the space station until early August. When it undocks, it will perform a deorbit maneuver to burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Additional ATVs are planned for launch to the station in future years.
For NASA TV streaming video, downlink and scheduling information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv