Space Cargo Ship Launches

Europe’s orbital cargo platform (an ATV or Automated Transfer Vehicle) has been launched from French Guiana to resupply the space station.  It weighs a whopping 20 tonnes and is of course unmanned, relying on technology and accuracy to get in to position for the ISS (International Space Station).

The vehicle was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket and is the work of more than 11 years and scores of people.  As such, it’s been the biggest attempted launch from Kourou spaceport and indeed by a Europe.

Amazingly, the ATV is the largest, completely automated vessel to be docking with the ISS.  When it does dock on the third of April, it will do so completely without human assistance.  Whilst I’m of course hoping for it to be a huge success, I don’t think I’d want to be in the ISS at the time!

The ATV has been called the ‘Jules Verne’ and carries an original 19th century version of the author’s book From Earth to the Moon.  There’s an expectation that it will return to Earth on a space shuttle at a later date.  Given the lack of atmosphere, it should be in just as good shape as when it left!

The cost for the vehicle was an amazing 1.3 billion Euros and has a capacity of 7.6 tonnes – surely enough for plenty of cargo and whatever’s required on board the ISS.  Overall, I’d say that this is a development that takes us just that little step closer to either a Moon or Mars base.  That day is something I’m genuinely excited about.

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