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ATV Jules Verne Boosts Space Station to Higher Orbit (Video)

Jules Verne pushing the ISS along (ESA)
For the first time since docking with the International Space Station (ISS) on April 3rd, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (A T V) “Jules Verne” has been awoken and instructed to carry out an impressive task: push the ISS to a higher orbit. The robotic supply vessel, currently attached to the station’s Zvezda module carried out a 12 minute 20 second burn of its main engines. This is the first time an ESA spaceship has carried out such a task and it appears to have performed flawlessly, lifting the 280 tonne station 4.5 km (2.8 miles) to a new altitude of 342 km (213 miles). In true ESA style, they’ve even released a cool video simulation of the event…

Periodically, the ISS needs a small push in the right direction. As the station orbits Earth, it experiences a small amount of friction from the extended atmosphere of our planet. This atmospheric drag slows the orbiting outpost, making it drop to a lower orbit. When needed, the ISS must to be pushed to higher altitudes. Until now, “re-boosts” have been performed by the Space Shuttle, Russian Progress and by the ISS itself; but today, it was the turn of the most advanced European spacecraft ever put into space. Due to the large quantities of fuel still on board, Jules Verne is ideal for this manoeuvre.

At 04:22 GMT Friday morning, two of the four powerful ATV rockets burst to life after being given the signal from mission control in Toulouse, France. The supply ship provided a thrust of 2.65 m/s, accelerating the ISS along its orbital path. This increased speed increased its orbit. Mission controllers carefully monitored events for the long 740 seconds.

See the ESA video simulation of the ATV re-boost »

This re-boost comes after three weeks of inactivity for the ATV. The unmanned cargo vessel was launched on March 9th to take 1150 kg (2535 lb) of water, food and other supplies to the ISS. This proved to be a very busy time for space traffic control. First the ATV was launched, then on March 11th Space Shuttle Endeavour was sent on her way, then on April 8th Soyuz ISS 16S was launched. Jules Verne drew the short straw and had to wait in a parking orbit until Endeavour had docked, carried out its mission and then returned home. The ATV used this time to run tests until it was cleared for docking on April 3rd.

Now the ISS is ready for the arrival of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-124) scheduled for launch at the end of May. Discovery will deliver the Japanese Kibo laboratory to be installed on the growing station. Another three re-boosts are planned for the ATV on June 12th, July 8th and August 6th. Shortly after the last boost, Jules Verne is destined to be detached from the Zvezda module and dropped into the atmosphere, carrying 6.5 tonnes of trash into a controlled re-entry burn over the Pacific Ocean. A sad end to an amazing piece of technology.

Source: ESA

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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Silver Thread April 25, 2008, 9:07 PM

    Again we’re going to throw away a valuable piece of equipment worth millions of dollars. It seems like such a waste considering that the hard part was getting it up there in the first place.

  • D-wreck April 26, 2008, 1:38 AM

    Cool video.

    And yeah, space agencies should really start considering recycling.

  • marcellus April 26, 2008, 8:52 AM

    I don’t have a problem with how the ISS disposes of their trash. The Earth and the Pacific Ocean are huge compared to that dinky little spacecraft, which I’m sure would mostly burn up on re-entry.

    It all boils down to “Do you really want to be in space or don’t you?”

  • PHWilson April 26, 2008, 3:55 AM

    Is anyone at NASA keeping tabs of the ISS’s carbon footprint? I mean, using the upper atmosphere as an incinerator must deliver tons of hydrocarbons (and God knows what else) directly into the thin layer that keeps Earth from turning into Mars, per se.

    This is simply a matter of accountability, as I (like most) am not sure what is really behind global warming.

  • Tom April 26, 2008, 7:59 AM

    “The supply ship provided a thrust of 2.65 m/s…” ?

    Meters per second is not a unit of thrust, nor acceleration, but that’s what appears in the original article. I wonder if they meant “… provided a thrust that accelerated the station by 2.65 m/s …”

  • Neil April 26, 2008, 8:59 AM

    Instead of incinerating it, why cant they leave it connected to the ISS as extra living space, or an extra set of rocket boosters if needed, i realise it will run out of fuel, but it will still be air tight wont it?

    explain this madness!

  • Adam April 26, 2008, 10:05 AM

    To be able to recycle*) this particular craft would require enhancements to it’s technology beyond, WAY beyond, ESA’s budget.Sad but true. Using it for extra living quarters would likely be a bad solution because it’s not design to be used as such and it would take up a docking port which could probably be put to better use. And, oh, by the way, with Jules Verne parked where it is now you wouldn’t be able to use any more of those ATV:s since they can only dock to the aft port of Zvezda. This would make it an extremely expensive project indeed.

    *) assuming that by recycling you mean reusability á la space shuttle.

  • michael April 26, 2008, 11:23 AM

    Plus, I assume, you would be able to transport a lot less to the ISS with the ATV if it could come back to the earth (with the heatshield and what not). Or you would probably need a stronger rocket. Both of which is – I guess – not really feasible. Plus reusable stuff is not exactly cheap. The Space Shuttle is not exactly cheap.

  • Silver Thread April 26, 2008, 11:26 AM

    I understand the implications of Price, I suppose what I was thinking was more along the lines of a scrap yard of some kind. I am sure there are salvageable parts on the module.

    Since we are looking at placing a lot of gear in Space in the near future it might save us some time and trouble to keep a few parts around to be reused.

    Heck if it has Fuel available, enough to boost the Orbit of the ISS, does it have enough to set it on a slow path to the Moon where it can be dropped off and potentially reclaimed by future Lunar missions?

  • Vanamonde April 26, 2008, 9:44 PM

    Tom Says:
    April 26th, 2008 at 7:59 am
    “The supply ship provided a thrust of 2.65 m/s…” ?

    Meters per second is not a unit of thrust, nor acceleration, but that’s what appears in the original article. I wonder if they meant “… provided a thrust that accelerated the station by 2.65 m/s …”

    I believe that is known as delta-V or a change in velocity.

  • Vanamonde April 26, 2008, 9:51 PM

    I downloaded this video, it is nice – I just have a different idea of HiRes (at a minimum 640-480!). I was surprise to see it covered the whole life cycle. And it has solar panels! Also learned that the craft using laser when docking. The burnup sequence was not well animated. Maybe Pixar could help (pro bono).

    Now, the soundtrack is unneccesary. A fanfare for the logo and then a drone of filtered white noise. Lame.

    Some asked why the ATV could not stay and add to the structure. Part of it’s mission is to take the garbage down to be burned up!

  • Adam April 27, 2008, 2:43 AM

    “set it on a slow path to the Moon”

    Purely theoretically it could be doable by slowly widening the orbit of the craft. However, getting it to land on the Moon or in any way make it useful somewhere near the Moon would also need major modifications. The ATV was designed as a transporter to the ISS and that probably makes it very customized for this particular task. Keep in mind that it does have a role after it undocks: it disposes of all that trash. Also, ESA is advertising this project as a way to learn and develop autonomous robotic operations in space and thus we could write off the price as the cost of research and development. Hopefully we will all be able to benefit from that. Accidentally, the whole ISS thing is R&D in order to figure out how we can make this space stuff more routine.

  • elise vander May 24, 2008, 2:51 AM

    Im doing a Science Assessment task on space stations and im stuck iv’e searched many websites looking for information but have found nothing yet. Wondering if you could answer this question for me in sentence form. How the technology has aided our understanding of the universe?

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