With ESA’s Columbus laboratory successfully attached and operating on the International Space Station, the time has now come for another European milestone mission to leave for the ISS - that of the first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), named 'Jules Verne'.
Europe’s massive 19 357 kg supply spacecraft will be carried into orbit by a special version of the Ariane 5 launcher. This Ariane is scheduled to lift off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on March 9, rather than March 8. ESA and Arianespace decided to postpone the launch by one day. The Jules Verne launch is rescheduled for 00:59 Kourou time, 03:59 UTC, 04:59 CET on Sunday 9 March 2008.
From 2008 onward, ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle will be one of the space station’s supply spacecraft, delivering experiments, equipment and spare parts, as well as food, air and water for its permanent crew.
Constructed by EADS-Astrium, the ATV, which is the most powerful automatic spaceship ever built, will carry up to 9 tonnes of cargo to the station as it orbits 400 km above the Earth.
Equipped with its own propulsion and navigation systems, the ATV is a multi-functional spacecraft, combining the fully automatic capabilities of an unmanned vehicle with the safety requirements of a crewed vehicle. Its mission in space will resemble that, on the ground, of a truck (the ATV) delivering goods and services to a research establishment (the space station).
A new-generation high-precision navigation system will guide the ATV on a rendezvous trajectory towards the station. In early April, Jules Verne will automatically dock with the station’s Russian Service Module, following a number of specific operations and manoeuvres to show that the vehicle is performing as planned in nominal and contingency situations.
It will remain there as a pressurised and integral part of the station for up to six months until a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere takes place, during which it will burn up and, in the process, dispose of 6.3 tonnes of waste material no longer needed on the station.
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