How do you get oxygen to the Space Station? Europe blasts off with the solution

The Jules Verne ATV | Image: CNN / ESA Everyone is always amazed by Shuttle launches and beautiful views of the International Space Station (ISS). But something vital that’s often forgotten is how the astronauts actually survive while they’re up on the Space Station. Because space is essentially empty they need air and water, as well as lots of all important food and water.

Until now, all supplies had to go up in the Shuttle’s cargo hold or on a tiny Soyuz rocket, or the rather basic Russian ‘Progress’ ship. But now a new way to supply the ISS has just blasted off from French Guinea in South Ariane 5, the rocket that took Jules Verne up to space | Image: WikipediaAmerica: the Jules Verne ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) has a huge capacity (about 5 tons), and can dock with the ISS completely on its own.

It uses a complex laser system to perfectly align itself with the ISS, then it docks using nothing but its onboard computers. Astronauts can then start emptying it of its supplies as they need them – as well as filling it up with their trash. A few months after it docked, the ATV will simply fall off and burn up over the Pacific Ocean.

The ATV is a huge development because it eliminates the need for space to be wasted on the Shuttle, and it has a much bigger capacity than the Russian spacecraft. Four more ATV’s are planned in the coming years. Check out the launch video below – I just love rocket launches. (The next Shuttle launch is coming up on March 11)

There’s an interesting BBC article here and also an excellent video here. And here’s a good post from the blogosphere.

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One Response

  1. The ATV looks like it’s doing pretty well for a first-timer – one glitch but reliable back-up systems. I’m looking forward to seeing how smoothly the computer docking goes (once the shuttle has come and gone). It will be a crucial delivery service once the shuttle is phased out in a couple of years.

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