The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has been successfully launched into orbit. The ATV, also known as “Jules Verne”, is Europe’s largest and most complex spaceship ever. Weighing in at 20 tons, the ATV needed a big push to get it into space, so the largest member of the Arianespace-built rocket family was called into use, the Ariane-5. The unmanned ATV is now en-route to the International Space Station, to make some deliveries…
(Including a cool little animation of the entire mission courtesy of ESA.)
Launched from French Guiana (South America) at 0403 GMT, March 9th, the Ariane-5 rocket lifted the heavy vehicle into orbit to send cargo, propellant, water and oxygen to the International Space Station (ISS). This is the largest payload ever lifted by Arianespace, and the new Ariane-5 performed excellently. After 66 minutes from blast-off, the launch was declared a success as the ATV separated from its Ariane-5 boosters to begin its mission.
- See the launch in a short report from the BBC.
- See the entire animated ATV mission, from launch, docking to re-entry (ESA).
The ATV is a unique spacecraft. It has been called a “barge”, “truck”, “freighter”, “tug” and its mission is pretty unglamorous. Primarily it will take about 7.5 tons of supplies to the ISS, docking (automatically) with the Russian service module. Then, it will act as a waste disposal module for six months, remaining attached to the station, being filled with rubbish from the stations crew. When full with over six tons of trash, it will separate and then kill itself by falling through the Earth’s atmosphere, insuring all the waste gets incinerated. It will be the ultimate single-use product.
The ATV now has to hang around in an orbital holding pattern to wait for Space Shuttle Endeavour to launch (on March 11th), dock and then leave the ISS on March 24th before it can approach the station. See “Traffic Jam at the Space Station” to find out how busy it’s getting up there.