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Cargo ship set for precision docking with ISS

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posted on Apr, 3 2008 @ 06:37 AM
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Following a series of successful test manoeuvres at its 400 km orbit above the Earth, Europe's new uncrewed cargo ship has been given the all clear by European Space Agency officials to dock with the International Space Station on Thursday.

It is controlled solely by its sophisticated onboard software, so if the docking is successful, it will be the most autonomous manoeuvre achieved in space to date. Human control is limited to triggering pre-programmed emergency routines should any problems occur. These routines would make the ATV park in another orbit a safe distance away from the space station.

Docking with the space station will be a delicate procedure – an error of just a few centimetres could puncture the side of the ISS. So ESA has been putting the vehicle through its paces in a series of demonstrations to test whether the vehicle really can perform all the manoeuvres to the required precision.


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Hope everything will go according to plan; this is such an important mile stone as mastering the electronic docking will help us in assembling bigger space ships in orbit for long term missions, such as mission to Mars.




posted on Apr, 4 2008 @ 12:38 AM
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Great success, the unmanned cargo ship Jules Verne, made its docking debut at the ISS. But I never knew they are going to dispose the ATV after some time; why can't they keep the ATV for some other purpose instead of disposing it? Please click on the video link and watch the docking process and the size of ISS and the ATV.

European Space Freighter Makes Docking Debut



WASHINGTON — Europe's first space freighter, the unmanned cargo ship Jules Verne, made its docking debut at the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday with a graceful arrival after weeks of waiting in Earth orbit.

The first of a new fleet of automated resupply ships, Jules Verne successfully docked at the orbiting laboratory at about 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT) under the watchful eye of station commander Peggy Whitson and flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko.

"Right now the vehicle can be seen clearly...it's lit by the sun," Malenchenko told Russia's Mission Control before the two spacecraft docked 212 miles (341 km) above the southern Atlantic Ocean, just south of the equator and east of South America.

Malenchenko was poised to push a red button on a console inside the station's Russian-built Zvezda service module that would send Jules Verne away from the ISS should the cargo ship stray off course during its meticulous approach. But the spacecraft's smooth docking made the emergency measure unnecessary.


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Watch video here



posted on Apr, 4 2008 @ 12:45 AM
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Thanks for posting this Enceladus.

It sure will be a milestone...especially if it completes it's mission with no technical hitches.

After every single advance in technology like this, I always wish I could be alive for the next 500 years. (I'm not greedy, 500 is enough for me)




posted on Apr, 4 2008 @ 09:28 AM
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Well, at least there is someone else other than the Russians who will be able to fill the gap between 2010 (the shuttle's retirement date) and 2015 (the date NASA's new Orion spacecraft will be operating). However, we will still need the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts to and from the station during that time, since the 'Jules Verne' ATV is for supplies only.

I wonder: After the shuttle fleet's retirement (and even after 2015), does NASA have a way to get a large amout of supplies to the station, or will they rely on the Europeans and Russians to provide that service. I suppose they are currently relying on the Russian Soyuz (and now Europe's ATV) for major re-supplies -- the space shuttle brings up huge parts of the station, but not a lot of supplies. However, I was wondering if NASA has its own "supply ship" planned (maybe a "supply" version of the Orion spacecraft) af6ter the shuttle's retirement.

I know that NASA was hoping that private companies would be able to get involved in supplyingthe space station (NASA's C.O.T.S. Program -- Commercial Orbital Transport System), but I haven't heard of too much progress in that program. I wonder in any private company will have a supply ship ready to service the space station in the foreseeable future.

[edit on 4/4/2008 by Soylent Green Is People]



posted on Apr, 29 2008 @ 06:13 AM
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Jules Verne boosts ISS orbit



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 of the 280-tonne Station by around 4.5 km to a height of 342 km above the Earth's surface.

The re-boost manoeuvre comes just three weeks after Jules Verne ATV successfully docked with ISS on 3 April 2008 delivering 1150 kg of dry cargo, including food, clothes and equipment, as well as additional supplies of water, oxygen and fuel. Since then, the European ISS resupply spacecraft has been in dormant mode attached to the docking port on the Russian Zvezda module.

Jules Verne ATV is scheduled to remain docked to the International Space Station until early August. At the end of its mission, Jules Verne, loaded with up to 6.5 tonnes of material no longer required by the ISS, will undock and then burn up completely during a guided and controlled re-entry high over the Pacific Ocean.


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Images and animated video can be viewed here

Why can't they recycle the ATV by using some sort of heat shield to protect it while re-entry? Why can't they dispose the 6.5 tonnes of waste material while orbiting? I am sure it will burn up while re-entry. Anyway I am happy to see the whole process of the ATV.



posted on Apr, 29 2008 @ 08:48 AM
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reply to post by Enceladus
 

It takes a lot more than just a heat shield for a spacecraft to be able to survive the forces of re-entry. I'm not saying it couldn't be designed to withstand re-entry, I'm just saying it's not as simple as adding a heatshield.

Obviously the Europeans probably have the capability to design a craft that could survive re-entry and landing in good enough shape as to be re-used or recycled, but that would have added greater cost to the design. I suspect that they decided that designing a reusable craft was not worth the added cost incurred by its ability to be reusable/recyclable.



posted on Apr, 29 2008 @ 10:41 AM
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reply to post by Soylent Green Is People
 


I understood if they wanna reuse the ATV then it involves many other technology, time, money and many more things than just a heat shield. Thanks for explaining these things.



posted on May, 3 2008 @ 06:06 AM
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Originally posted by Enceladus
this is such an important mile stone as mastering the electronic docking will help us in assembling bigger space ships in orbit for long term missions, such as mission to Mars.

There have been many autonomous docking before. The Russian's have been doing it for years. A manual process is actually favored by NASA as there are many constraints to autonomous dockings that make them more difficult than they're worth. For example, the relative GPS rendezvous system on the ATV requires that the ISS be at the docking attitude for 3 hours prior to the actual docking event. In order to stay at that attitude, thruster usage is required instead of controlling the ISS attitude with the CMGs (Control Moment Gyroscopes). When thrusters are used, the solar arrays must be feathered to prevent contamination. When the arrays are feathered, they're not generating much power and as such systems aboard the ISS have to be shut down. Contrast that to manual Shuttle dockings where the entire time out of the normal attitude can be as little as 30 minutes.

NASA plan for getting back to the moon and going to Mars will likely utilize manual dockings of the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle).



posted on May, 3 2008 @ 06:09 AM
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Originally posted by LateApexer313
It sure will be a milestone...especially if it completes it's mission with no technical hitches.

Oh, there were several technical glitches during the rendezvous phase of Jules Verne and and since it has been docked! ESA press released tend to gloss over the facts, but there were multiple failures of the PDE (Propulsion Drive Electronics) computers that forced automated shutdowns of equipment. Most of the problems were fixed from the ground with patches and work-arounds, however.



posted on May, 3 2008 @ 06:55 AM
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reply to post by Credulity Kills
 


Credulity Kills, thanks for that detailed explanation; never knew the difference between autonomous docking and manual docking. So it is better to go with manual docking right? even then I guess manual docking will have some draw backs when we compare it with the autonomous docking else they wouldn't have gone for it right?



posted on May, 3 2008 @ 11:49 PM
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Originally posted by Enceladus
Credulity Kills, thanks for that detailed explanation; never knew the difference between autonomous docking and manual docking. So it is better to go with manual docking right? even then I guess manual docking will have some draw backs when we compare it with the autonomous docking else they wouldn't have gone for it right?

No problem at all. There are pros and cons to be sure, but my personal preference tends towards manual dockings. I'm sure some of my colleagues would disagree.

As I see it, the biggest problem with automated dockings is that the software isn't smart enough to be able to counteract every possible failure scenario. A well trained human on, on the other hand, can exercise judgement and adapt accordingly. This is why all governmental space agencies have retained humans in mission control centers rather than relying exclusively on onboard FDIR (Fault Detection, Isolation, and Recovery).

The other issue with automated dockings is that they don't really relieve the crew to do other things. With ESA's ATV, a crew member is required to sit there and watch the incoming vehicle via CCTV and press a manual abort button if required. This takes just about as much attention and certainly as much time as flying a vehicle in manually.

It's worth noting that while all Russian vehicles default to automated dockings, the cosmonauts almost always override it and fly the Soyuz or Progress in manually. There's another reason for this: cosmonauts get bonuses for performing off-nominal activities*. Crazy, but true.

*If you haven't already done so, I'd highly recommend reading Bryan Borough's "Dragonfly" about the ISS Phase 1 program (U.S. astronauts and shuttle to Mir). You'll learn all sorts of crazy things like that.



posted on May, 5 2008 @ 06:02 AM
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reply to post by Credulity Kills
 


Thanks a lot for your valuable input; I will sure try Bryan Borough's "Dragonfly". And now onwards I will keep a track on Introducing Credulity Kills Thread



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