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Premiere in Space: Jenoptik sensors allow fully automated docking of unmanned transporters with the ISS

(PresseBox) (Jena, ) First docking process has been completed successfully today. From 2009 European and Japanese Space Agencies are planning numerous transport missions to the ISS for those Jenoptik is the base provider of the Rendezvous- and Docking Sensors.

Through the docking of the first ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) "Jules Verne" of the European Space Agency ESA with the International Space Station ISS Europe undergoes a premiere in space. The Rendezvous- and Docking Sensors of Jenoptik allow for this fully automated process in a height of 350 kilometers. With today's docking of the ATV the whole mission is a success for the 41 international project partners and the European Space Agency.

When from May 2009 the number of the permanent crew members of the ISS increases from today three to then six an enlarged demand in supply flights emerges which cannot only be covered by American and Russian missions. The European and Japanese Space Agencies are currently planning at large five respectively seven flights with their unmanned transport vehicles to the ISS. The next flight of an ATV is already planned for 2009. Each ATV is able to transport payload of up to seven tons such as scientific experiments, food and fuel.

Both for the transport vehicles of the European Space Agency as well as for the Japanese missions Jenoptik is the base provider of the Rendezvous Sensors. By the end of 2004 the Jenoptik subsidiary Jena-Optronik GmbH, Jena, received a long-term supply contract for Rendezvous Sensors valued in the double figure million range from EADS SPACE Transportation, general contractor for the European supply vehicle. After the successful termination of the development work the first two sensors have already been provided in 2004. With the Japanese Technology Group Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, general contractor for the supply vehicles of the Japanese Space Agency JAXA, an Authorization to Proceed (ATP) for delivery of at large twelve Rendezvous- and Docking Sensors also valued in the double figure million range has been concluded by the end of 2007. The delivery will run until 2012.

Demanding requirements on robustness, reliability and accuracy of the system.

The start of the first ATV with the Rendezvous- and Docking Sensors (RVS) of the Jenoptik took place on March 9th 2008. With the help of a two-stage Ariane-5-ES-rocket the ATV has been started from the European Spaceport Kourou in French Guiana and been separated in a height of 272 kilometers at a speed of 7,45 kilometers per second. From its parking orbit in a distance of 2.000 kilometers from the ISS the ATV has already completed two demonstration flights up to eleven meters from the ISS within the last days.

The automated docking is proceeded with the help of the Rendezvous- und Docking-Sensors RVS TGM (telegoniometer) und RVS VDM (videometer). From a distance of around 3.000 meters the system RVS is able to measure the distance and approaching direction of the ATV to the International Space Station: RVS sends laser beams as short light pulses, a reflector system in the RVS channels these light pulses to the ISS. On the Russian module "Svesda" of the ISS, the ATV is docking with, special reflectors are installed - comparable to the back lights of a car, but far more precise and thus more efficient - which blast back the laser light.

This light is re-captured by the RVS. From the time difference between the first sent and then re-captured light pulse and the "viewing direction" of the reflector system it will then be calculated how far the two space vehicles are remoted to each other, which relative speed they have and in which angle they are resting to each other so that a pinpointed and secure docking of the supply vehicle can finally be allowed. The requirements on robustness, reliability and accuracy of the sensor are demanding. In a distance of 300 meters between RVS and ISS the measuring accuracy of the sensor accounts for only a few millimeters.

Further development of the sensor systems for future space missions.

Jenoptik already advances the RVS laser technologies for future space missions: Since April 2007 the current project in new Imaging Lidar Technologies by order of the European Space Agency ESA is in the second development stage. Jena-Optronik received the acceptance for the first, eight months lasting phase A of the study in May 2006. In the second development phase technologies using laser radiation in the near infrared range will now be tested until summer 2008. The results are supposed to slip in ExoMars mission. Amongst others, samples taken from the soil of the mars will be sent back in the orbit of the Red Planet in a small container of the size of a hand heel. The Imaging Lidar sensor measures the relative position of container and mother ship in the mars orbit from a distance of five kilometers to the "re-capture" and delivers the required distance and angle data for orbit corrections and the actual docking process.

About Jenoptik's aerospace technology

In the division Defense & civil Systems Jenoptik combines laser sensor systems, optics, optoelectronics, mechanics and electronics within complex components, systems and facilities. It focuses on the areas of vehicle and aircraft equipment, drive and stabilization technology, optoelectronic instruments and systems for the security and space industry as well as software, metrology and control technology. With almost 1.100 employees the sales of the division amounted to 180 million Euros in 2007. Production sites are Wedel near Hamburg, Jena, Essen and Altenstadt. The origins of the division go back to ESW GmbH and Jena-Optronik GmbH as well as the laser and infrared sensor systems business areas of JENOPTIK Laser, Optik, Systeme GmbH.

In the optronics area (Jena-Optronik GmbH) Jenoptik develops, manufactures and markets opto-electronic instruments and systems for various applications in the area of aerospace technology, intelligence and reconnaissance. In recent years Jenoptik has become one of the leading instrument and system providers in the international aviation and aerospace market, is established in the field of opto-electronic systems for military technology and offers comprehensive services for the analysis of recorded data. Key areas of the business unit consist in satellite technology, multispectral imaging systems, processing of imaging data and observation platforms.

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