2008-04-06 - ATV docks to ISSEurope's ATV docks to the ISS
"Jules Verne" an Raumstation angedockt<br /> On April 3, the ATV Jules Verne, European Space Agency's first resupply and reboost vehicle, has successfully performed a fully automated docking with the International Space Station (ISS).
This docking marks the beginning of the Jules Verne's main servicing mission to deliver cargo, propellant, water, oxygen and propulsion capacity to the Station, as well as ESA's entry into the restricted club of the partners able to access the orbital facility by their own means.
The 19-ton unmanned spaceship manoeuvred from a holding position 39 km behind the 275-ton space outpost and conducted a 4-hour staged approach with several stops at reference points for checks. It autonomously computed its own position through relative GPS (comparison between data collected by GPS receivers both on the ATV and the ISS) and in close range it used videometers pointed at laser retroreflectors on the ISS to determine its distance and orientation relative to its target. Final approach was at a relative velocity of 7 cm/s and with an accuracy of less than 10 cm, while both the ATV and the ISS were orbiting at about 28000 km/h, some 340 km above the Eastern Mediterranean. The ATV Jules Verne's docking probe was captured by the docking cone at the aft end of Russia's Zvezda module at 16:45 CEST (14:45 GMT). Docking was completed with hooks closing at 16:52 CEST (14:52 GMT).
The ATV Jules Verne was launched by an Ariane 5 from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 9 March. Three days later, it successfully demonstrated its autonomous CAM capability and was cleared for ISS proximity operations. The spaceship then moved to a parking orbit for the duration of space shuttle Endeavour's visit to the ISS. On March 29 and 31 it conducted two rehearsals of today's docking, approaching at 11 m from the Station.
Now that it is docked, the ATV Jules Verne will become an additional module of the ISS for about four months. The astronauts will enter its pressurized cargo module and retrieve 1,150 kg of dry cargo, including food, clothes and equipment as well as two original manuscripts handwritten by Jules Verne and a XIXth century illustrated edition of his novel "From the Earth to the Moon". In addition, they will pump 856 kg of propellant, 270 kg of drinking water and 21 kg of oxygen into Zvezda's tanks.
The ATV can carry about three times as much payload as Russia's Progress freighters but on this mission, most of it is actually propellant to be used by the ATV's own propulsion system for periodical manoeuvres to increase the altitude of the ISS in order to compensate its natural decay caused by atmospheric drag. If required, the ATV will also be able to provide redundant attitude control to the ISS or even perform evasive manoeuvres to move the Station out of the way of potentially dangerous space debris. The first of ATV Jules Verne's reboost manoeuvres is currently scheduled on April 21.