ATV Jules Verne Surpasses All Expectations (Videos)

Article written: 23 Jun , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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Last week’s record re-boost from ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) pushed the International Space Station 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) higher to an orbit of 345 kilometres (214 miles) above Earth. This was the second re-boost carried out by the ATV, a mission (dubbed “Jules Verne”) that has surpassed all expectations. In fact, the ATV has not only passed each and every mission objective perfectly, it has gone above and beyond the call of duty…

After 11 weeks attached to the ISS, ATV Jules Verne continues to provide an unexpected service to the ISS crew. Last Thursday it successfully boosted the 300 tonne ISS to a higher orbit (this was the second re-boost, the first was at the end of April) and it has since refuelled the station with 856 kg of propellant. Although these were essential tasks, the ATV has provided an invaluable service to the crew. Not in the design plan of the ATV, the roomy temporary supply vessel has provided a great area for the crew to sleep and wash, plus one of its empty tanks has been used to store 110 litres of condensation water from the ISS. But the best news of all: the ATV’s mission has been extended for a month, allowing the crew to enjoy the ATV for a little while longer. The scheduled undocking and planned burn up on re-entry will now take place in September, not August.

Watch the ESA video montage of the crew working (and playing) inside the spacious ATV »

Ever since Jules Verne docked at the ISS on April 3rd, the ISS astronauts have had access to the roomy 48 m3 vessel and they have made it a centre for daily life onboard the station. The ATV mission control gave the crew special permission to use the spaceship for a variety of everyday needs. For starters, the astronauts and cosmonauts have been using the ATV as an improved “Crew Hygiene Station” where they have been able to wash their laundry. They have also been able to use the space to wash their hair with an alcohol-free rinse less shampoo (I’d love to know how that stuff works!). This additional space also has the effect of keeping the station’s air humidity low.

Watch an animated version of last week’s re-boost operation »

Crewmembers have also used the ATV as alternative sleeping quarters. Apparently, the ATV is a quieter environment to the rest of the station as the sound levels of the ventilator fans and air circulation is fairly low. The station’s sleeping arrangements are fairly strict, two crewmembers must sleep in the small ISS crew cabins, but the third can sleep anywhere in the station. It turns out the ATV has proven to be the location of choice for the third crewmember.

For further detail about the huge array of ATV successes, check out the ESA news release. For now, the crew have a little more time to enjoy the ATV before it ends its mission in September only to be dropped into the atmosphere where it will burn to a cinder, leaving any mass left to drop to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. How sad.

Sources: ESA [1], [2]


18 Responses

  1. Brad says

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… why the hell are we dumping this valuable resource back into the gravity well? Surely we could park it somewhere for later use and use some other method of taking out the trash?

  2. Tyler Durden says

    I was just thinking the same thing. Way not weld it to the side of the ISS and then cut an opening through, and use it for extra space?

    Or if that’s too difficult, just leave it docked until there’s another ship coming, then decouple and nudge it out of the way to let the other ship dock.

    What a collosal waste!

  3. Silver Thread says

    Good grief yes, with the multitude of space junk floating around up there, why are we trying to get rid of something we can actually use!? It’s a triumph for the ESA and it’s obviously an asset if for no other reason than we may have a use for the parts later on, Keep the damn thing!

  4. Chuck Lam says

    Something is wrong with NASA’s thinking!

  5. Chuck Lam says

    Here’s an idea. Let’s encourage NASA to send the ISS to the moon for perhaps a six month moon orbit. Then bring it back into earth orbit. This most certainly will impress the world and probably strike fear into our political adversaries.

  6. Sili says

    My guess is that ATV is simply not engineered for a permanent residence in space. There will no doubt be safety concerns if it were to be stuck permanently to the ISS.

    As for just leaving it parked in the vicinity I doubt that’s possible – too big a risk of collision. And there’d be no way to boost it when the ISS is boosted.

    Yes, I think it’s wasteful, but let’s face it. We haven’t been in space long enough to be efficient. If Apollo was the Wright brothers, we’re now at the dogfighting biplane stage.

    But go Europe! For a first this is a tremendous boon. I hope this success means that the future ATVs can be made more efficient. Perhaps even to the point of delivering new sections to the ISS that could then be affixed with the help of the robotic arms already there.

  7. Maxwell says

    Its a supply ship.
    Once the fuel is expended and they load the thing up with station garbage, its weight will be a hindrance and its space will be unfit for use.
    When re-certifying a module for reuse is going to cost as much as building a new one (and that price trumped by its launch costs), what is the point to bringing it back?

    This is just a fact of operating in space with our current level of technology.

  8. Jorge says

    As Maxwell says, it’s a supply ship. Its function is essencially the same as that of the russian Progress ships, that have been invaluable since the beginning of the construction of the ISS (and before). The only difference is that the ATV is a whole lot more sophisticated (The basic design of the Progress is the good old reliable 70’s soviet technology). And, like the Progress, its destiny is delineated from the start: burn up in the atmosphere. That’s what it was made for.

    Adding to that, Jules Verne is an experimental ship. It’s the first craft of its type, and its performance will be carefully analysed and used to improve it further. This includes knowing how it performs during atmospheric insertion, how well it burns up, aso.

    This said, I still hope it can be adapted for crewed flights. With the end of the shuttle program and the hiatus before Constellation is up to fly, we’d be a whole lot better off if we had an alternative to Soyuz flights, just in case something happens to the russian program.

  9. PaulS says

    @Chuck:

    The amount of propellant needed to move ISS into a lunar orbit, and back to Earth orbit, would be prohibitive. It’s just too big.

    And I don’t think striking fear into political opponents is a good thing … they’re likely to do something rash!

  10. trux says

    > This most certainly will impress the world and probably strike fear into our political adversaries.

    You mean fear of stupidity? Hm, I am afraid you cannot beat the stupidity of the current Government even with such a ridicule nonsense.

  11. Chuck Lam says

    To: PaulS, You are correct about the propellent requirement. It would be very significant. However, the size of the ISS appears to be about the minimum to transport a science team to Mars. Sending the ISS to a moon orbit from an earth orbit might be good practice for a Mars attempt with a cluster of solid fuel rockets. It might be possible to reliably retrofit rockets and central control to a beefed-up ISS structure. The ISS is capable of life support for a several month round-trip with 3 or 4 physicists. And finally, you might be right about the fear thing, though I don’t think so. Don’t lose sight of the rashness inflicted on our troops you know where.

  12. Chuck Lam says

    Hey Zifferman, Lighten up a little. I just finished reading Dick and Jane. Clearly you have recherche` knowledge. That’s great.

  13. zifferman says

    Hey, Chuck – stop watching Star Dreck and
    open up a physics book.

    By the way, the ATV looks like a little bug flitting around.

    Maybe we could send that to the Moon.

  14. Al Hall says

    Seems as if the first ATV try has been going quite well. Good for ESA. I wish the ATV project only success.

  15. IKE:) the Alien lifeform says

    HaHa, having read the comments, I just remembered thinking, that those old Saturn5 pieces could have made a nice permanent (rotating) like in SO 2001 station. THAT I would consider a Space Station. AND, it could be used to build the next craft to go to the Red Planet or elsewhere. Is it lack of creativity or am I thinking in the wrong direction…?
    The problem with the ISS is it does not provide artificial gravity (inertia rather). Well, now that Bill MicroSoft is retiring:), maybe he could help build that old idea of A.C. Clarke… Biiillll, are you listening?

  16. Brad says

    My original thought went along the lines of… set up a stack of docking points on the ISS. Once you get half a dozen or so of them (either progress or Soyuz I don’t care), bolt them together and attach an ion engine to them, then send them out to luna orbit to sit until we have a use for them. I could imagine that they’d be really useful if you could refit them to land on the moon. Think ahead, not throw away.

  17. kcuhC says

    Honestly I think things like the space station funcction more as a distraction from some real ground-breaking space exploration. In the last mission at least some time was spent “unclogging” a toilet (ok, not literally). I appreciate that if we want to exist in space and in distant places we need to learn to exist in such environments, but it consumes way too much time/energy for the benefit. One Hubble space telescope is worth 2 space stations.

  18. zifferman says

    The flood waters of ignorance are rising every second of every day and you want me to remain calm about it all?

    All I got is a bucket and I intend to use it.

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