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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.
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.
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.
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.
Originally posted by LateApexer313
It sure will be a milestone...especially if it completes it's mission with no technical hitches.
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?