ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle home
topic index

ESA ATV and ISS
Credit - ESA via Marcus Lindroos

Manufacturer's Designation: ATV. Class: Tug. Nation: Europe. Agency: ESA. Manufacturer: Cannes.

The Automated Transfer Vehicle was first proposed in the mid-1980s as a way to transport unmanned cargo to a Space Station. Later the design was based on use of an Ariane 5 to launch the ATV for docking with the International Space Station. Following protracted development, the ATV finally flew in 2008.
ATV
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

Early studies focused on a modified version of the Ariane-5's L9.7 upper stage -- the 'ARIES' concept -- but by 1992 the European Space Agency had decided a custom-built propulsion module would be more efficient. A pressurized or unpressurised Cargo Carrier module would transport up to 9000 kg of supplies.

The European Space Agency also considered using the Ariane-5/ATV to launch the Columbus laboratory. The project's detailed Phase B2 began in July 1996. By 1997, ESA had decided to use solar panels to produce additional power for the Automated Transfer Vehicle. One mission of the Automated Transfer Vehicle would be to boost the International Space Station's orbit. Occasional propulsive maneuvers would be necessary to keep the ISS orbit from decaying, since air drag slowly lowered the Space Station's orbit. The ATV would dock at the rear of the Russian Service Module and the Russian Space Agency was providing a rendezvous and docking system as part of an ESA/RSA deal. Periodically boosting the ISS orbit now increasingly appeared to be the ATV's most important mission, since the Russians might not be able to launch enough Progress cargo spacecraft to do the job and the shuttle would eventually retire.

ESA signed a $470 million contract with Aerospatiale in 1998 to develop the Automated Transfer Vehicle. The European Space Agency also paid $23 million to RSA and NPO Energia for integrating the ATV into the ISS Service Module, while the French space agency CNES received $30 million to develop interfaces for the ATV's Ariane-5 carrier rocket. Aerospatiale also signed a consortium agreement with Daimler Chrysler Aerospace, who were to produce up to a dozen ATVs between 2003 and 2013. The target price was $70 million per ATV plus $115 million for the Ariane-5 booster. The final ATV version had a dry mass of 9.2t (including its 3,694kg MPLM-derived Cargo Carrier); carried 2.68-6.76t of propellant for ISS rendezvous and reboost; and the maximum weight at launch was about 20.5t. The spacecraft could carry up to 7 metric tons of cargo in eight International Standard Payload Racks, including 860kg of propellant, 840kg of water and 100kg of atmospheric gases.

In 2005 Lockheed Martin and EADS Space Transportation joined forces to sell the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to NASA for ISS resupply. The first ATV was then expected to launch in May 2007. Further delays pushed this into 2008. While the ATV would certainly be launched on the Ariane 5 rocket for European missions, it could potentially be launched by Lockheed's Atlas 5 if contracted by NASA.

Typical orbit: 407 km circular orbit, 51.6 deg inclination. Mass: 19,012 kg (41,914 lb). Payload: 2,462 kg (5,427 lb). Main Engine Propellants: 6,475 kg (14,274 lb).


ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle Chronology
  • 2008 March 9 - Jules Verne ATV - Launch Site: Kourou. Launch Vehicle: Ariane 5. Mass: 19,012 kg (41,914 lb). Perigee: 336 km (208 mi). Apogee: 343 km (213 mi). Inclination: 51.60 deg. Period: 91.30 min.

    First launch of Europe's Automated Transfer Vehicle, a logistics vehicle designed for ISS resupply. The Ariane model 5ES launch vehicle, vehicle L528, had the enhanced EAP solid boosters and EPC core stage of the Ariane 5ECA, but with the new EPS-V upper stage with restart capability and a vehicle equipment bay instrument unit strengthened to carry the heavier LEO payload. Jules Verne carried 1300 kg of dry cargo, 302 kg of water and oxygen, and 860 kg of propellant to the ISS. For this test mission it had a dry mass of 10075 kg and 6475 kg of maneuvering propellant (in later missions the propellant could be thousands of kilograms less, in order to deliver more cargo).

    The EPS stage made its first burn and placed the stack into a 137 km x 260 km orbit at 04:20 GMT. The EPS restarted at 05:05, burned for 30-seconds, and released the ATV into a 254 km x 272 km orbit.


ESA ATV 1993
ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle - 1. Cutaway drawing of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (1993). Early studies focused on a modified version of the Ariane-5's L9.7 upper stage -- the "ARIES" concept -- but by 1992 the European Space Agency had decided a custom-built propulsion module (top left) would be more efficient....
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

ESA ATV DASA
ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle - 1. Alternate Automated Transfer Vehicle concept (DASA). The European Space Agency also considered using the Ariane-5/ATV to launch the Columbus laboratory....
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

ESA ATV 1996
ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle - 1. The Automated Transfer Vehicle rendezvous with the International Space Station in this 1996 drawing....
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

ESA ATV
ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle, Early Design. The Automated Transfer Vehicle boosts the International Space Station's orbit....
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

ESA ATV
ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle - 2. Ariane-5/Automated Transfer Vehicle orbit insertion. This illustration shows how the ATV payload fairing is jettisoned shortly before the spacecraft separates from its Ariane-5 booster. ...
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

ESA ATV 1999
ESA Automated Transfer Vehicle - 2. Automated Transfer Vehicle approaching the International Space Station. This is how the final, operational ATV will look....
Credit- ESA via Marcus Lindroos

Contact us with any corrections, additions, or comments.
Conditions for use of drawings, pictures, or other materials from this site..
To contact astronauts or cosmonauts.

© Mark Wade, 1997 - 2008 except where otherwise noted.