August 3, 2007

ATV - the European ISS resupply ship

The Jules Verne, the first of Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicles designed to ferry supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), arrived at the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou late in July. Since its arrival, CNES teams have been preparing the ATV for launch in specially altered facilities, under the watchful eye of the director of operations. It is scheduled to make its maiden flight on 31 January 2008, on a specially adapted Ariane 5 launcher.
31 October 2007

A modern, impressive spacecraft

Since August 2000, the ISS has been resupplied every 3 months or so by Progress-M cargo vessels with food, water, air and equipment.
The Progress-M also reboosts the ISS’s orbit—which decays up to 300 metres daily—and takes down garbage at the end of its mission, when it burns up on re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

The Progress-M entered service in 1989, when the Mir space station was still operational. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)—developed by Europe for the ISS programme alongside the Columbus laboratory and the European Robotic Arm (ERA)—is now set to take over some of the Progress-M’s tasks.
The ATV has a much more modern design and 3 times more freight capacity (7.5 tonnes).

It is the biggest spacecraft ever developed in Europe, weighing close to 21 tonnes at lift-off and measuring 10.3 metres long and 4.5 metres across. It spans 22 metres with its 4 solar panels deployed.

A very special launch

Given its size and mass, the ATV will require a specially adapted launcher and launch timing. An Ariane 5 ES ATV will be used for the 1st time to place the vehicle into orbit 260 kilometres from Earth. This variant will employ the same lower composite as an Ariane 5 ECA but a reignitable solid-booster upper stage.

After launch and an initial “dormant” phase, the ATV will be the 1st European spacecraft to rendezvous in space, navigating with GPS, and the 1st to dock automatically with a space station, using metric-precision laser guidance.

Manoeuvres will be controlled from the ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) at the Toulouse Space Centre and monitored live by the ISS crew and the U.S. and Russian mission control centres.

After docking to the ISS’s Russian Zvezda module, the ATV will provide additional pressurized capacity on the ISS for 6 months. It is then scheduled to make 4 more flights up to 2013.

ATV arriving at CSG.

* CNES’s mission is vital since it has coordinated all adaptation work at the CSG and operates the ATV-CC on behalf of ESA.

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