“When ATV Johannes Kepler is lofted into space on 15 February, an ESA tracking station on Portugal’s Santa Maria island will watch closely, gathering crucial data as Ariane 5 streaks overhead.
In 2008, the Santa Maria station, located five kilometres from the town of Vila do Porto on the Portuguese island of Santa Maria, in the Azores, became the latest station to join ESA’s global ESTRACK tracking network. Santa Maria’s 5.5 m-diameter antenna provides crucial tracking services for Ariane 5 rockets as they boost Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) into orbit. With a total launch mass of some 20 tonnes, including fuel, food and cargo for the International Space station, the ATV vessels are the largest and most sophisticated spacecraft ever built in Europe. The next one, ATV Johannes Kepler, is due for launch on 15 February. It will dock automatically with the ISS eight days later, on 23 February, and remain attached to the Station until June, providing critical orbit reboosts.”
Em 2008, a estação de Santa Maria, nos Açores, juntou-se à rede da ESA que monitoriza o lançamento de veículos para a Estação Espacial Internacional.
O próximo lançamento será a 15 de Fevereiro, no veículo Johannes Kepler, que levará comida, combustível, e demais carga para a EEI.