Next ATV Will Be Named Johannes Kepler

Article written: 19 Feb , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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The next Automated Transfer Vehicle (A T V) to be launched to supply the International Space Station (ISS) has been officially named. Currently being assembled in Germany, the next ATV will honour the great 17th Century German scientist, Johannes Kepler.

The very first ATV was named after the legendary French science fiction writer, Jules Verne, and launched on an extended 5 month mission to the orbiting outpost where it delivered supplies, gave the station a helpful re-boost and then carried out an extreme garbage disposal effort, burning up over the Pacific Ocean on September 5th, 2008.

After it is launched on a similar resupply mission in 2010, the same fate awaits ATV Johannes Kepler. Or does it

The ATV is Europe’s most advanced spacecraft ever built. Last year, Jules Verne wowed the world as it was launched into orbit, completed a flyby of the station (at a distance of 30 km) and then carried out a series of tests (including the critical Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre) before waiting in a parking orbit, 2000 km from its destination.

This was a particularly busy time for the ISS as Jules Verne had to wait for Space Shuttle Endeavour to finish its mission (STS-123) to attach the Japanese Kibo module and Canadian robotic arm. After Endeavour returned to Earth, the ATV was clear to dock on April 3rd.

So next year, it will be ATV Johannes Kepler’s turn to carry out a fully automated docking procedure with the space station to deliver food, water, propellant and oxygen. As with Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler is expected to provide a re-boost option, pushing the ISS to a slightly higher orbit.

However, Johannes Kepler might be saved from the fiery re-entry its predecessor had to endure. The European Space Agency, overjoyed at the success of Jules Verne, has asked the space industry for advice on how the ATV might be upgraded, to allow for the safe return of cargo to Earth and possible astronaut transportation. A feasibility study was approved at a meeting in The Hague in November 2008.

Interestingly, there will be another mission already in space in 2010 bearing the same name as the second ATV. The exoplanet-hunting Kepler telescope is set for launch next month.

Source: BBC


28 Responses

  1. Spoodle58 says

    I am glad the ESA is thinking on reusing the ATV after its primary mission is finished.

  2. Timmy says

    Why are a series of glorified supply ships being named after some of the most important science folk in history?

    Save those names for truly important space missions, or future colonies.

  3. Jorge says

    The European Space Agency, overjoyed at the success of Jules Verne, has asked the space industry for advice on how the ATV might be upgraded, to allow for the safe return of cargo to Earth and possible astronaut transportation. A feasibility study was approved at a meeting in The Hague in November 2008.

    Way to go! We’re becoming independent in people transportation as well. That was to be expected, with the bottleneck caused by the retirement of the shuttle before there are constellations around, but it’s great news all the same. I’m loving ESA more and more… 🙂

    Ah, and Timmy, don’t fret about that stuff. Names don’t get stored in ice when they are used in spacecraft. You can name your colony Kepler if you want to.

  4. Thomas says

    Kepler spacecraft….
    Kepler ATV….

    That’s original.

  5. What would be really nice, is if they would upgrade the ATV to be refuelable while on-orbit. This would require a switch from hypergolics to something more benign like methane/LOX. Throw in some extended life support systems, and some basic controls for occupants to interface with the guidance & navigation systems, and you have yourself a crewed orbital transfer vehicle – a run-about.

    It’s about time we started getting some experience with this type of vehicle – a fully reusable craft that can be refueled and resupplied in space, and that is capable of actually taking its crews someplace other than the ISS. Sure there’s only the one place to go to now, but there will soon be more (as soon as Bigelow Aerospace starts putting up modules). It would be nice to have a way to transfer between them. Satellite servicing missions also become possible. And, let’s face it, if we ever want to have anything that resembles cislunar infrastructure, then we will need the ability to move people around.

    Now, it may be asking too much to get a modified ATV to do all these things, but we could at least start learning about how to operate such a vehicle. Maybe, in the process, we could discover something useful for it to do. Surely that’s better than just letting it burn up in the atmosphere.

  6. robbi says

    Interesting article, I’m certain many refinements will be made to this great ATV as time goes by

  7. Shaula Brant says

    I will be out there looking at the night skies and watching ATV Kepler as I did for ATV Jules Verne. And seeing the time line posted for the ATV program, ESA will eventually have a human rated capsule version in its future. Looking forward to what other missions are to come.

  8. Shaula Brant says

    I know I will never make it into space, but watching the space station, the space shuttles, the ATVs and an endless parade of other satellites cross my skies makes me feel at least a part of it…

    Maybe if they get the space elevator built in my lifetime, there may be a chance……

  9. Astrofiend says

    # Timmy Says:
    February 19th, 2009 at 7:39 am

    “Why are a series of glorified supply ships being named after some of the most important science folk in history?

    Save those names for truly important space missions, or future colonies.”

    >>>Hear Hear! They could call these things the ‘Jerry Springer’ for all I care!

  10. tek_604 says

    ESA must be going round the member states for names.

    I wonder what the British ATV would be called. The Germans & French go for notable scientists/authors, and I bet the British end up calling theirs “David Beckham”, or after someone from BB…

    What I’d like to see is the British ATV named after a navy ship. So maybe HMS Ark Royal. Yes, that would do nicely 🙂

  11. dollhopf says

    I guess that ATV’s navigation system is unprecedented at present. Now they should build a winged version of it also.

  12. jcnventura says

    It would be fitting that the British-named ATV be called the ‘H.G. Wells’ (as a tribute to the greatness of Wells, in par with that of Jules Verne), or in case they’re going for a scientist, the ‘Edmond Halley’ for his discovery of comets as periodical events.

    Or maybe they’ll just say ‘Frak it’ and call it the ‘Rowan Atkinson’.

  13. Wolter says

    “Why are a series of glorified supply ships being named after some of the most important science folk in history?”

    What were the scientific accomplishments of Jules Verne again…??? 😉

  14. Spoodle58 says

    What were the scientific accomplishments of Jules Verne again…??? 😉

    Inspiration to generations of humanity that got interested in space, at a time when most people where rolling around in mud or exterminating the natives of a certain country.

  15. Timmy says

    Wolter said:

    “What were the scientific accomplishments of Jules Verne again…???”

    If you have to ask such a question, then you know zip about Jules Verne.

    Start out with his book From the Earth to the Moon.

  16. Frank Glover says

    “Save those names for truly important space missions, or future colonies.”

    Names can be (and have been) re-used in space projects, you know. Viking. Orion. Columbia and Challenger have been done in Apollo.

    And, of course, there’s ‘Enterprise…”

  17. dollhopf says

    What’s in a name?

    Johannes is most common, it is the same as John.
    Kepler is a very popular family name.

    The Johannes-Kepler-Universität is the University of Linz in Austria. Many schools in the in the German-speaking part do bear this man’s name.

    Damn, you will find a Keplergasse, a Keplerplatz or a Keplerstraße in many towns, even a a young lunar impact crater on the moon.

  18. dollhopf says

    “What were the scientific accomplishments of Jules Verne again…?”

    Oh well, he was one of the inventors of science fiction. And fiction, you know, is the dream. But science, you know, is the truth. And thus, to make dreams come true, you first and foremost must have the dream!

    “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted …”

  19. Yael Dragwyla says

    This is confusing. Naming both the ATV and the spacecraft that will be doing the survey of the Carina region, looking for potentially habitable planets, doesn’t seem to serve any good purpose. Why not name this ATV and all future ones after science ficiton writers, taking the precedent for the name of the first, Jules Verne, and use the names of astronomers for space telescope missions?

  20. dollhopf says

    To regulate the names of satellites and transporters of all space agencies could only be achieved by an international control office.

    Their was a regulation of the European Community that the bending of a cucumber for the European Market might not go beyond a certain value.

  21. fastfoodcoupons.biz says

    i find this post informative and good to read, Thank you!

  22. Spoodle58 says

    We Europeans do love our straight cucumbers 🙂 🙂 🙂

  23. Jorge says

    Why not name this ATV and all future ones after science ficiton writers, taking the precedent for the name of the first, Jules Verne, and use the names of astronomers for space telescope missions?

    Probably because the Germans don’t have any really noteworthy SF writers. ESA is, and will always be, all about balance in national prides and financing, so the major ESA players want to have their nationals hommaged in ESA’s spacecraft. Had the naming of the ATVs been restricted to SF writers, the Germans would be left with a problem in hands. Call a craft Hohlbein? Of whoever was the original creator of the horrendous Perry Rhodan series?

    Yuck.

  24. Stefan says

    @Jorge: Actually Johannes Kepler wrote a SF-Novel called Somnium. It’s about a flight to the moon.
    Look for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somnium_(Kepler)

  25. Jorge says

    Ah, yes, of course, I had forgotten about Kepler’s Somnium. So this puts him in the group of percursors of science fiction as well, together with Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

    Nice choosing, then. 😉

  26. dollhopf says

    WeI guess the best German-speaking SF lately was The Swarm by Frank Schätzing. But it was “only” a perfect story but it did not express “dreams”, like Vernor Vinge does, or like Alastair Reynolds or Neal Stephenson do.

    I would prefer a German philosopher’s name! Ludwig Wittgenstein, Immanuel Kant, Karl Marx, Karl Popper, Max Weber, Albertus Magnus, Ernst Mach, Moses Mendelssohn, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Ludwig Feuerbach, …

  27. dollhopf says

    Hallo Stefan Taube!

    Danke für den klasse Tipp! Keine Ahnung wieso, aber ‘Somnium’ war meiner Aufmerksamkeit bisher entgangen.

    Gruss!

  28. Aqua says

    I for one was very iimpressed by not only the selection of Jules Verne for the first ATV, but also VERY impressed with its performance. What a beautiful ship! and what a waste it seemed to watch it burn up. That is to say, surely there’s got to be a better way to use this resource besides hauling trash~ UGH! How about retrofitting several modules, send them to lunar orbit and use them to assemble a lunar orbiting space station! Now THAT would be interesting~

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