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 America: 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)
Filed under: Exploration, Science, Space, Technology | Tagged: astronomy, ATV, ESA, Europe, France, International Space Station, ISS, Jules Verne, Jules Verne ATV, NASA, Pacific Ocean, Russia, shuttle, Soyuz, space shuttle, Space Station |