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Robot space freighter

Published by under News,Transportation categories on March 9, 2008

Photo of Ariane 5 launcherThe European Space Agency carried out the launch of a robot freighter designed to rendezvous automatically with the orbital space station.

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), named Jules Verne, is a nearly 20-tonne payload , it was aboard an Ariane 5 launcher. After being placed in orbit, the cylinder craft will deploy its solar panels and gently find its way to the International Space Station (ISS) and berth with it.

The ATV will deliver seven and a half tonnes of food, water, pressurised air, fuel and personal items to the ISS crew. After docking, the ATV will use its engines to propel the station, which is being gently tugged earthwards by terrestrial gravity and lingering atmospheric molecules, to a safer height in low orbit.

Weighting 11 tonnes unloaded, measuring 10.3 metres (33.5 feet) long and 4.5 metres (16.25 feet) wide and laden with hi-tech optical navigation, docking sensors and communications equipment, the ATV has cost ESA 1.3 billion euros (1.96 billion dollars).

The payload, handled by an Ariane 5 ES, is the biggest undertaken by ESA. It will be placed in orbit at an altitude of 260 kilometres (160 miles), and then take about two weeks to edge up to the ISS, in order to test its systems and wait patiently for the departure of a US space shuttle, the Endeavour, before docking with the station.


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