Image: ESA's first Automated Transfer Vehicle

March 7, 2018, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA/NASA

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Jules Verne!

ESA's very first Automated Transfer Vehicle is seen approaching the International Space Station against the glow of Earth's horizon.

Launched 10 years ago on 9 March 2008, the maiden cargo ferry was named after the 19th-century French author and visionary, Jules Verne, who fascinated millions of young people and inspired scientists and explorers with his extraordinary stories.

While it didn't take the spacecraft 80 days to go around the world and reach the Space Station, it was nevertheless an extraordinary voyage.

Its task was to demonstrate that ATV could accomplish to the International Space Station safely and reliably, and that all the advanced technologies work as planned. As the pioneer, its mission was deliberately more demanding than the flights of its successors.

Launched on an Ariane 5 rocket, ATV-1 spent 30 days in orbit before docking to the Space Station. During that time, it proved itself by navigating to the Station, and practising avoidance manoeuvres and proximity control. All the while it was being closely monitored by ATV Control Centre at the CNES French space agency site in Toulouse, France.

Jules Verne docked to the Space Station on 3 April and delivered equipment and spare parts, as well as food, air and water for the crew. Like all ATVs, it remained attached for about six months before undocking for a controlled destructive reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

Four more ATVs carried 6.6 tonnes of cargo about every 17 months to the orbital outpost.

In addition to , ATV regularly boosted the Station into a higher orbit to overcome the effects of the faint drag of Earth's upper atmosphere – the Station loses up to several hundred metres in altitude every day. To perform these manoeuvres, ATV carried up to 4 tonnes of propellant.

The five successful ATV missions proved the sophistication of this European spacecraft and, like the Columbus module, demonstrated European capability and excellence in space exploration.

Explore further: Jules Verne ATV launch approaching

Related Stories

Jules Verne ATV launch approaching

February 11, 2008

After the successful launch of ESA’s Columbus laboratory aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on Thursday (7 February), it is now time to focus on the next imminent milestone for ESA: the launch of Jules Verne, the first Automated ...

Jules Verne boosts ISS orbit

April 25, 2008

ESA's Jules Verne ATV was used for the first time early this morning to raise the orbit of the International Space Station. A 740-second burn of the Automated Transfer Vehicle's main engines successfully lifted the altitude ...

Russia launches cargo ship to space station

October 14, 2017

Russia on Saturday launched an unmanned Progress space freighter carrying supplies to the International Space Station from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Burn ATV-4, burn

November 6, 2013

( —ESA's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle,Albert Einstein,burnt up on 2 November at 12:04 GMT over an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean. It left the International Space Station a week earlier with 1.6 tonnes ...

Record boost for ATV to raise ISS orbit

June 20, 2008

For the second time since April, ESA's Jules Verne ATV was used to raise the orbit of the International Space Station yesterday. A record boost from the 20 minute burn of the Automated Transfer Vehicle's main engines successfully ...

Recommended for you

The surprising environment of an enigmatic neutron star

September 17, 2018

An unusual infrared emission detected by the Hubble Space Telescope from a nearby neutron star could indicate that the pulsar has features never before seen. The observation, by a team of researchers at Penn State, Sabanci ...

Ceres takes life an ice volcano at a time

September 17, 2018

Every year throughout its 4.5-billion-year life, ice volcanoes on the dwarf planet Ceres generate enough material on average to fill a movie theater, according to a new study led by the University of Arizona.

Slowest-spinning radio pulsar detected by astronomers

September 17, 2018

An international team of astronomers has discovered a new radio pulsar as part of the LOFAR Tied-Array All-Sky Survey (LOTAAS). The newly detected object, designated PSR J0250+5854, turns out to be the slowest-spinning radio ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.