Space Station-bound ATV Forfeits April Launch Window

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MADRID — A glitch in an avionics box on Europe’s fourth ATV unmanned cargo vehicle discovered during testing will force a replacement and retesting of the box, and that will force the 20,000-kilogram vehicle to miss its planned April launch date to the international space station, the ATV-4 mission manager said Feb. 22.

In a briefing with journalists, Alberto Novelli said the station’s traffic management has openings in May or June, each lasting several days, and that the ATV-4 should be able to make one of these launch windows.

But Novelli said the final tests of the box were still continuing as of Feb. 22 and that a firm launch date would await completion of the tests. An internal NASA launch schedule shows a no-earlier-than date of May 7 for the mission.

ATV-4, dubbed Albert Einstein, arrived at Europe’s Guiana Space Center in French Guiana, on the northeast coast of South America, in September. Novelli said the launch campaign for ATV-4 is slightly longer than the previous vehicle because, for the first time, the ATV will be carrying a full complement of water.

Novelli said it was not immediately clear what caused the defect in the avionics box, which had undergone testing in Europe and at the spaceport.