ESA's cargo spaceship achieves automatic docking

London
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

The European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), called Jules Verne, docked successfully at the International Space Station's Russian Zvezda module at 14:45 GMT on Thursday 3 April.

Over a 4h period on 3 April, the ATV moved from a holding position 39km (24 miles) behind the ISS to a final approach with a relative velocity of 0.25km/h (0.15mph), using relative GPS calculations and its optical sensors with the Zvezda's retroreflectors to determine its distance and orientation to the Russian module's docking port.

The ATV is ESA's first fully automated, expendable cargo resupply spacecraft and Jules Verne is the first of five planned ATVs that will deliver up to 7,600kg (16,700lb) of supplies and fuel to the ISS before the end of 2016.

The ATV will also boost the ISS's altitude and its first planned reboost engine firing is on 21 April. Jules Verne will stay at the ISS for four months, be filled with waste and then undock and burn up on re-entry.

"The docking of the ATV is a new and spectacular step in the demonstration of European capabilities," says ESA director general Jean-Jacques Dordain.

The ATV docking followed two days of successful tests on 29 and 31 March. For all missions, the docking process will be monitored by ESA's ATV Control Centre in Toulouse, France, the ISS control centres in Moscow and Houston, Texas, and the space station crew.

Because the resupply spacecraft becomes habitable volume for the ISS, with astronauts entering it to transfer cargo and waste, ATV has had to meet man-rated vehicle standards.