See Doomed Spacecraft Before Its Fiery Demise


The Jules Verne Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has done its duty – it even went above and beyond its expected capabilities. But the end is nigh, and soon, on September 29 the ATV will become a fireball and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, never to be seen again. But before it does, people in North America and Europe have the perfect opportunity to see it sail overhead this weekend in its low Earth orbit, and according to, the ATV will glow about a brightly as the North Star, Polaris. To find out when and where to look for the ATV in the evening or early morning skies, check out’s great satellite tracking webpage. Just plug in your zip code and you’ll be able to get tracking information for all the satellites that will be visible for the next few days. Also, Heavens Above is a great site to find tracking information, as well. So get out there and bid Jules Verne adieu. Here’s some of the great things the ATV accomplished while on orbit at the ISS, and a movie of its undocking too…

The Jules Verne spent five months docked to the space station where it delivered supplies (and fun things like a manuscript written by its namesake.) The supply ship turned into a tug boat when its engines were fired up to help the ISS avoid a piece of space junk. It also served as an impromptu bedroom for the space station crew.

When will the next ATV fly? Sometime in 2010, and the name for that ship has not yet been revealed. It will follow the debut of another space station cargo ship, Japan’s H-2A Transfer Vehicle, set for next year.

Here’s a movie of the Jules Verne undocking from the ISS.


16 Replies to “See Doomed Spacecraft Before Its Fiery Demise”

  1. Many supply ships have been to the ISS till now.

    “On August 6, 2000, the first Progress spacecraft (M1-3) was launched toward the ISS”, according to

    From that time on two dozen of these ships have been docked.

    Less data is available about the solar panels of the Progress ships on the internet. But I can estimate that an area of more than 100 square meters in total has been brought into orbit with those transporters. In comparison, the ISS solar panel is about 375 m².

    And there is not the least attempt to use those material docked at the entry door of the ISS.

  2. “Destroying an ATV because it is no longer needed.” What a total waste of very expensive equipment. The ATV shell could have been economically converted into permanent utility for storage or sleeping or lab space or any number of things extra space is needed on the ISS.

  3. Imagine, if the twentyfive Progress ships were linked together in the form of a big wheel. Spinning around a middle axis and thus generating centrifugal forces which whould simulate gravity. This wheel following the ISS in a distance of one mile. Maybe rented to space tourist start-ups.

    Imagine only all those solar panels that were mounted oneach of these wasted ships would have been linked together to a huge sun paddle. 25 times 14 square meters: 350 m². All this stuff lifted into orbit for 5000$ per kilogram or whatever was burned up. Due to a lack of zest for action.

    I would like to write a computer game which allows the player to build up her own space stations with wasted equipment.

  4. Yeah, I imagine. I imagine them all wheeled up, filled with dried excrement and other bits and pieces of ISS astronaut trash, freezing cold and with whatever space left over after the trasho got poured in filled with vaccuum, since the Progress isn’t a pressurized space ship.

    What a lovely hotel that would be for space tourist start-ups! I’d pay huge bucks to spend my honeymoon on such a location. Just imagine: me, my bride, loads of junk and nothing to breethe. We wouldn’t be able to get off our spacesuits, but screw that. Valuable equipment wouldn’t be wasted.

    What, honey? You refuse to go? But… but… but…

  5. Jorge believes that “the Progress isn’t a pressurized space ship.”

    That’s wrong.

    “Both the Progress M and M1 versions have a pressurized Cargo Module to carry supplies”,

    according to:

    “The pressurized orbital module
    carried dry cargo. The crew could
    enter the orbital module to unload
    dry cargo, but had no access to
    the tanker compartment”,

    according to: NASA RP 1357 by David S. F. Portree, pg. 36

    “Im Unterschied zu den Sojus-Raumschiffen ist der Teil, in dem sich die Astronauten aufhalten, bei den Raumfrachtern durch eine Sektion ersetzt, die man unter Druck setzen und somit von den Kosmonauten entladen werden kann”,

    according to:

    Don’t forget, that a Progress was an unmanned version of the Soyuz Ferry. Also the ATV transporter is the unmanned version of ESA’s future manned space vehicle.

    Jorge assumes that a Progress transporter needs necessarily be “filled with dried excrement and other bits and pieces of ISS astronaut trash”.
    Not if it is not used as a trash can. That’s really the least problem.

    Jorge japes: “What a lovely hotel that would be for space tourist start-ups!”

    I guess you try to beat down the seller.

  6. Uh… one has to go slowly with these guys…

    Yeah, there are some Progress versions with pressurized modules. “Pressurized module”, however is not the same as “pressurized ship”. A Progress pressurized module is a cramped little space located in the typical sphere russian ships usually have in the forward section. It’s not even 3 m in diameter. It has one docking port, and therefore cannot be linked together with other Progress ships to “form a big wheel”.

    By contrast, the ATV is truly a pressurized ship, because it has a vast interior space going from the front to the back, where there is space to place a second docking port between the engines. An ATV evolution could eventually be used like that. The Progress cannot.

    The Progress, furthermore, has no life support systems. This means that even in the pressurized versions once the air it brought from the surface is spent there’s nothing to replace it. You have two choices: try to breethe the carbon dioxide you just exhaled or open the valves and let the vacuum settle in. But more likely than not, you’ll freeze to death (or boil to death) before that. No life support systems means no human-friendly temperature regulation. All that has to be provided by the ISS (and before the ISS, by Mir) while the ship is docked.

    And as far as the Progress not being used as trash can, well, I guess you guys have a really hard time understanding that the trash has to be dumped and cannot just be thrown out of the window as if the ISS was a car filled with rednecks somewhere in a rural road in middle America. And that the only alternative to having the Progress ships being used as trash cans is to build another ship to be used as a trash can. Which is what the Europeans did. It’s called ATV.

    If you are smart enough to learn some details on how the Progress is built, surely you’d also be smart enough to learn what would happen if you tried to dump your trash without a ship (or at the very least some engines) to bring it down. One keyword might be helpful in your googling: “space junk”.

  7. Dear Sir,

    you cannot seriously blame “these guys” for the instant that the designer of the Progress in the 70th, Konstantin Feoktistov, wanted something quick and relatively cheap. The actual form of appearance of the Progress without several modifications is hardly able to inspire.

    It is not my fault, that with every discarded transporter 14 m² of solar panel and 9 m³ of potentially habitable volume and several tons of material are wasted, because a thought-out concept for recycling of disused space equipment IN SPACE was never worked out by the manufacturer or by you.

    The design of the Progress vehicles is outdated. Since 2001 about twentyfive of them docked at the front door of the ISS. Each one brought 14 m² of solar panel “for free” to the ISS. But instead of being able to assemble them to an area of altogether 350 m², a panel with 375 m² needed to be delivered separately for an extra billion dollars.

    You joked that ‘one keyword might be helpful in your googling: “space junk”‘, and, of course, new methods of suitable waste disposal for space stations – just in case that departing supply ships wouldn’t be available – need not be your concern.

    The ability of reutilization of equipment could raice the permanent number of humans in space. Instead of three there might thirty or three hundred.



  8. OK, dollhopf, if you’re that much smarter than the Progress designers, and all the other space vehicle designers combined, for that matter, go secure yourself a job in the space industry, to put some sense into those silly peoples’ heads.

    Best of luck.

    In the meanwhile, however, it might be good if when you daydream about a annular hotel made of Progress ships you actually meant Progress ships, with all their actual characteristics, not whatever idealization of an ideal Progress ship you may have in your head (which I’ll bet doesn’t look at all like the real thing). You see, people don’t have access to the pretty pictures you draw to yourself inside your brain, and who prefers to deal with reality may find your daydreams funny, and that has the potential of hurting your feelings.

    You might also want to refrain from treating the whole space industry as a bunch of wasteful morons, since that also might give rise to some reactions you may not like.

    This goes for the other whiners as well.

  9. ditto

    So would you mind if I cut off the “blood supply” with immediate effect? I mean, is it okay to you if I simply ignore you? It is overdue.

    I ask, because I don’t want to insult somebody who just has a bad time and needs just somebody he can suck a little bit of good mood from (those can always have a pittance from me, I don’t mind)

Comments are closed.