Here’s a futuristic-looking concept for a manned vehicle of the not-so-distant future. Buoyed by the success of the Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle, the European space company EADS Astrium unveiled their plans to evolve the ATV â€“ currently a cargo carrier for the International Space Station â€“ to a manned vehicle. There’s just one little hurdle to overcome: currently, the ATV isn’t capable of returning to Earth without burning up in the atmosphere. But Astrium says the cost for the upgrade would be reasonable, and an additional crew-capable vehicle would certainly come in handy for the ISS when the shuttles are retired in 2010.
Jules Verne successfully docked to the space station in April of this year using its sophisticated navigation, rendezvous and docking technologies. Astrium believes a crewed version of the ATV is the logical next step.
The idea is to use the current avionics and propulsion systems of the Jules Verne, but insert a crew compartment in place of the current cargo section.
Astrium says the work to upgrade the vehicle would be done in two stages. The first would be to give the freighter a means of returning non-human items to Earth safely – something it currently can’t do.
Astrium says this stage could be flying by 2013 and would cost “well below one billion euros” to achieve.
If all goes well, the re-entry freight capsule could then be upgraded to carry three astronauts in a second stage of development.
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Astrium estimates maiden voyage of a crewed capsule would be 2017 at the earliest. While the US’s new Orion spacecraft is scheduled to be ready by 2014, its always nice to have a back-up.
A model of a proposed European manned spaceship was on display at the Berlin Air Show.
Original News Source: BBC