The European Space Agency (ESA) has stated that Europe’s last supply vessel to the International Space Station (ISS) has left the space station signaling the end of a line of cargo ships that had delivered supplies to astronauts since 2008.
The ESA stated that the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Georges Lemaitre separated from the ISS on Saturday at 1344 GMT at the end of its six-month mission.
The ATV was initially set to detach on February 27th to enable ESA’s flight engineers to test a trajectory that could help in planning for the ISS’s own demise, which is sketched for around 2024. The idea was to see whether a longer, shallower angle of re-entry would help to burn up the ISS, which has a mass of around 925,000 pounds.
However, that plan was scrapped when a fault developed in one of the ATV’s four power sources. The agency added that the problem was minor, but the re-entry was brought forward as a precaution.
Dominique Siruguet, deputy head of ESA’s ATV program, said, “It’s a minor concern rather than a critical problem. The ATV has four solar panels. It can operate as normal using three power chains, but even if this were reduced to two, it would still be able to separate from the ISS and perform re-entry satisfactorily.”
The ATV is the fifth and final cargo ship that ESA contracted to provide for the US-led ISS project. It is named after the father of the Big Bang theory. The spaceship is designed to navigate by starlight and dock automatically with the manned outpost in space. The 10-metre (32.5-feet) -long ATV was launched by an Ariane 5 rocket in August, bringing 6.6 tonnes of fuel, water, oxygen, food, clothes and scientific experiments for the six ISS crew.
ESA have added that the Sunday’s suicide plunge will occur around 1812 GMT.