Albert Einstein in Space: Cargo Vehicle on its Way to the Space Station

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
June 6 2013 1:00 PM

Albert Einstein Now in Space

launch of an Ariane 5 with ATV-4 on board
The dramatically-lit launch of an Ariane 5 rocket with Albert Einstein, a cargo resupply ship for the space station, on board. Click for your new desktop wallpaper.

Photo by ESA/Stephane Crovaja

The cargo resupply ship named Albert Einstein—officially called the Automated Transfer Vehicle-4—is on its way to the International Space Station loaded down with supplies.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

It launched yesterday aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport (and man, how I love even writing that word) in French Guiana* at sunset. It’s carrying over 2500 kilograms (5500 pounds) of supplies to the station—the heaviest load taken to ISS by a European spacecraft. It’s a total of 1400 separate items, including food, water, clothing, equipment, even air. Once docked to the station, it has enough propellant to be able to boost the complex to a higher orbit, too: Over time, the station’s orbit drops due to drag with the Earth’s ethereally-thin upper atmosphere, so the occasional reboost is necessary.

Advertisement

The launch was really something, and ESA has video of it on their site. The photo at the top of this post is from the launch, and there are more on the ESA site as well. They're breath-taking.

Einstein is in a parking orbit for a while, using solar cells to power itself. It can’t go straight to the station because at the moment a Russian Progress space capsule is docked in the port Einstein needs. The Progress is due to undock on June 11; it’s filled with trash and other unneeded material, and will be sent down into Earth’s atmosphere to burn up. Once the port is cleared, Einstein can approach and dock. That’s scheduled for June 15, 2013.

I imagine the docking will be broadcast live. I hope so, as they are beautiful and gracefully dramatic events.

[Correction (18:15 UTC): I originally wrote the spaceport was in New Guinea due to some weird hiccup in my brain.]

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Technocracy
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.