Tuesday, 29 January 2008 11:35

Automated spaceship loaded for ISS resupply

By
Jules Verne, the first European automated transfer vehicle (ATV) has been loaded with oxygen ahead of its first trip to the International Space Station.

The oxygen is needed to keep the air breathable aboard the ISS. It weighs just 20kg - a small fraction of the 1.3 tonnes of
cargo being hauled into orbit. Also aboard will be water, scientific equipment and other supplies.

The ATV is also being loaded with nearly 6 tonnes of propellant, some of which will be used to power the craft and the rest to refuel the space station so its orbit and attitude can be maintained. As the ISS is in a relatively low orbit, atmospheric drag causes it to slow and fall closer to Earth. To maintain its useful life, the ISS must be periodically boosted to a higher orbit.

A special version of the Ariane 5 rocket will lift Jules Verne into orbit from Kourou, French Guiana, and then the ATV will automatically dock with the ISS.

The mission is scheduled for February 22 or later, and Jules Verne - the first of at least seven ATVs - may remain attached to the ISS for up to six months. Loaded with around 6 tonnes of ISS waste, it will then descend from orbit and burn up completely on re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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