Two European Launches to Space Station Delayed

European ISS Laboratory Arrives at NASA Spaceport
The European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory is completed by EADS workers. (Image credit: ESA/EADS.)

PARIS -- Thelaunch of Europe'sunmanned cargo vehicle to the International Space Stationaboard an Ariane 5rocket has slipped to November, with Europe's shuttle-launched Columbus crewlaboratory shifting to December, under the tentative station schedule beingrevised following the U.S. space shuttle's hail damage-relateddelay.

Thereshuffling of the station's traffic schedule caused by the shuttle's delay isonly one of the reasons Europe's AutomatedTransfer Vehicle (ATV) [image], to carry thousands of kilograms offood, water and fuel to the station, will not make its late-summer launch date,according to Europe's space station director, Daniel Sacotte.

The ATV'sprevious schedule, calling for a launchbetween July and September, was going to be difficult to maintainregardless of the shuttle schedule as the European Space Agency struggled tocomplete integration of Russian and European components on the vehicle andresolve outstanding performance issues.

"Icertainly am not going to say I am happy with a delay," Sacotte said in anMarch 16 interview. "But in this case, a July-September launch was going tobe difficult for us. Now we have more than enough breathing room."

The ATV isdesigned to perform many of the functions of a manned vehicle, including theability to approach the station, then stop and back off if necessary before afinal docking. Its arrival must coincide with the availability of a dockingport, and even with the Sun's positionrelative to the station so that ATV's laser-guided rendezvous sensors are notconfused by backlighting of the station on approach.

ESAofficials want ATV to be launched before the Columbus lab to avoid possiblecash payments to NASA for Columbus [image]overhead charges. ATV is considered as part of Europe's payment in kind forstation services paid by NASA.

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Charles Q. Choi
Contributing Writer

Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for and Live Science. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. Visit him at