(Sen) - Europe's unmanned cargo ship Edoardo Amaldi completed its mission October 3. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV3) left the International Space Station at 21.44 UTC on September 28 loaded with almost a tonne of trash and waste from the orbiting complex, and burned up during a controlled re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific on October 3 at 01.30 UTC.
The departure had originally been scheduled earlier in the week but a computer glitch had halted the undocking procedure and caused mission controllers to reschedule. This time there were no such issues and the undocking took place 2 minutes ahead of schedule.
The ATV's flight and re-entry were managed by the ATV Control Centre based at the French space agency CNES in Toulouse, France, which works in close co-operation with control centres in Houston and Moscow. As a one mission only spacecraft the freighter is designed to be destroyed during re-entry which takes place over the south Pacific region, the least populated area of Earth.
In the week before its departure the station's crew - Commander Suni Williams along with Aki Hoshide and Yuri Malenchenko - loaded the freighter with waste and rubbish, as well as photographing and videoing the interior of the craft before closing the hatch for the last time.
Commander Sunita Williams - @Astro_Suni, Yuri Malenchenko and (top) Aki Hoshide - @Aki_hoshide in ATV-3 shortly before hatch closed. Credit: ESA ATV Blog
Edoardo Amaldi was the third of five ATV space freighters being supplied by the European Space Agency as part of its commitment to the running costs of the space station.
Edoardo Amaldi was launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket on March 23 and delivered several tonnes of supplies including food and water when it docked on March 29. The unmanned craft is the size of a bus and can carry several tonnes of supplies and propellant.
The ATV-3 is named after the Italian physicist who co-founded the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 1954 and the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO) - the forerunner of ESA - in 1964.
Europe's fourth ATV has been named Albert Einstein and has already been shipped to ESA's Kourou launch site in French Guiana. It is due to launch in early 2013. The fifth and final ATV - unless a new deal is agreed for more ATVs - is named after Belgian physicist George LeMaître and is expected to launch in 2014.
Europe's ATV is one of a number of cargo freighters that replenlish stocks and remove rubbish from the ISS. Russia provides its Progress ship whilst Japan contributes with the H-11 Transfer Vehicle (HTV). In October, SpaceX's Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the ISS, the first of twelve resuppy missions under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) agreement with NASA.
Update: ATV3 completed successfully, burning up on re-entry on October 3, at 01.30 UTC.