ESA, NASA Discuss Joint Manned Missions
Aviation Week

The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are discussing plans to build a joint U.S.-European spacecraft based on existing designs that could ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and one day carry humans beyond low Earth orbit.

Speaking at the Paris air show June 20, ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain said the space agencies are hashing out a plan that would combine the service module of ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) — a spacecraft built by EADS Astrium that is used to haul cargo to the orbiting complex — with NASA’s Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, a space capsule based on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that Lockheed Martin Space Systems has been developing for NASA over the past six years.

“We are working with NASA to see how we can combine the current capabilities of ATV with what NASA is doing on crew transportation systems to see how we can make a joint vehicle,” Dordain says. The two sides are shooting for a rough outline of the joint concept and its development costs by fall, allowing ample time for ESA member states to evaluate the proposal ahead of their budget-setting ministerial council at the end of 2012.

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ESA Names ATV After Albert Einstein

With ATV Johannes Kepler in space and ATV Edoardo Amaldi almost built, the next Space Station supply craft coming off the production line has been named after the most famous scientist of all time: Albert Einstein. Launch is expected in early 2013.

With relativity and E=mc2, Albert Einstein is a major icon of 20th century science.

His theories have been stringently tested in space and his work is used to guide spacecraft to other planets – and now he will fly into orbit. ESA has decided to name the fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) after Albert Einstein.

ATVs are an essential contribution by Europe for supplying and maintaining the International Space Station. (more…)

NASA, ESA Study Sending ATV Beyond Station

NASA and ESA are studying whether Europe’s ATV freighter could be adapted for missions beyond low Earth orbit, the BBC reports:

Potential projects it could get involved in might include the assembly at the ISS of the components required to make a deep-space craft. This craft might even undertake a brief foray beyond the station; and the ISS partners have already discussed the idea of repeating the 1968 Apollo 8 mission that saw three astronauts loop behind the back of the Moon.

“People are thinking about ideas that have increasing degrees of complexity,” explained Esa’s ISS programme manager, Bernardo Patti.

“First, perhaps it is a check-out mission of an exploration vehicle to the ISS. The second is to make a sortie that goes well beyond low-Earth orbit – with a crew or without a crew. And then having an Apollo 8 type of visit around the Moon makes perfect sense,” he told BBC News….

Germany is the lead nation in Europe on the ISS project. Its contribution accounts for some 40% of the Esa part of the station programme, and the head of the German space agency (DLR), Professor Jan Woerner, told the BBC he did not think the finances were available currently to proceed with a post-ATV ship.

Professor Woerner’s own preference would be for Europe to develop a capability to safely re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere – something the present ATV cannot do; it burns up as it falls back to Earth.

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ESA’s ATV Docks at Space Station

ESA PR 09-2011 — Eight days after launch, ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle, Johannes Kepler, completed a flawless rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station at 17:08 CET (16:08 GMT)to deliver essential supplies.


Amazing Photo: ATV Launch as Seen From Space

This remarkable photo was taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from the ISS on 16 February 2011, just minutes after ATV Johannes Kepler lifted off on board an Ariane 5 from Kourou at 22:50 UTC. It shows the rising exhaust trail of Ariane, still in its initial vertical trajectory. The trail can be seen as a thin streak framed just beneath the Station's remote manipulator arm. Credits: ESA/ NASA

Feb. 17, 2011

Following a spectacular launch on 16 February, Europe’s space freighter is now in its planned orbit. Mission controllers are preparing to match its trajectory with that of the International Space Station, where it will dock seven days from now.

After a one-day launch delay, ESA’s next Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Johannes Kepler, lifted-off yesterday on an Ariane 5 launcher from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 21:50 GMT. A few minutes later, the vessel attained its initial operational orbit at 260 km altitude. Mission controllers immediately began checking out the spacecraft and ensuring that programmed sequences – including deployment of ATV’s four large solar wings – had correctly taken place.


ESA’s ATV Launch Rescheduled for Tonight

Following a measurement anomaly in the liquid oxygen propellant tank of the cryogenic main stage for Flight 200’s Ariane 5 launcher, yesterday’s countdown was stopped. The new launch time has been set for this evening at 22:50:55 CET. Watch here

NASA Television coverage Wednesday would begin at 4:30 p.m. EST for a liftoff at 4:50:55 p.m. Watch here

Broadcast Schedule for ESA’s ATV Launch

ESA’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, will be launched on Tuesday, 15 February 2011, at 22:13:27 GMT (23:13:27 CET) by an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou to deliver seven tons of critical supplies and reboost the International Space Station. The launch will be shown live on ESA’s website.

NASA TV coverage of the launch from the northern coast of South America will begin at 3:45 p.m. CST. ESA is scheduled to launch the Johannes Kepler Automated Transfer Vehicle-2, or ATV2, on an Ariane 5 rocket at 4:13 p.m. (7:13 p.m. in Kourou). NASA TV coverage will continue through the deployment of the cargo ship’s solar arrays about 90 minutes after launch.

If the ATV2 launches Feb. 15 as scheduled, NASA TV will broadcast the final rendezvous and docking beginning at 8:45 a.m. on Feb. 23. Docking is scheduled at approximately 9:20 a.m.

For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:

Sources: NASA and ESA press releases

International Flotilla of Cargo Ships Heads for ISS

International Space Station

NASA Program Update

A quick succession of international space supply trucks will arrive on the International Space Station’s loading docks early in 2011, dropping off more than 11 tons (10,000 kilograms) of food, computers, medical equipment and supplies, spare parts and experiment gear – not to mention the necessities of everyday human life in orbit.

Demonstrating a multinational commitment to supporting life, work and research on the station at the start of its second decade, space trucks from Japan, Europe and Russia will launch to the station in January and February, followed quickly by the space shuttle Discovery.


ESA’s ATV-2 Ready for Launch to ISS

ATV-2 Johannes Kepler undergoing preparations. Credits: 2011 ESA / CNES / Arianespace / Photo Optique Vidéo du CSG / S. Martin


ATV-2 is almost ready for launch on 15 February from Europe’s Spaceport. It will be the heaviest load ever lofted into space by the Ariane 5 rocket, making the 200th flight of the European launcher even more spectacular.

ESA’s latest Automated Transfer Vehicle space ferry, named after the German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, is now fully fuelled, its oxygen tanks are filled and most of the cargo from ESA and NASA is placed inside.


ESA’s Coming Attractions for 2011


Expected key events of the year (follow the ESA website to get the final dates):


  • Planck early release of compact source catalogue

Release of the first processed data package from Planck’s first full-sky scan, which will help the investigation into the origin of the Universe.
Location: Planétarium. Cité des sciences et de l’industrie (La Villette)
Date : 11 January

  • Director General’s Annual Press Conference

Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain will provide media with a synthesis of the major achievements of 2010 and the key milestones foreseen for 2011.
Location: ESA HQ, Paris
Date: 14 January


ESA to Name Third ATV After Italian Space Pioneer

Edoardo Amaldi


Production of the Automated Transfer Vehicles is gearing up. After the flawless flight of the first ATV, Jules Verne, the second, Johannes Kepler, is being completed for launch later this year. Now the third ATV has been named after the Italian physicist and space pioneer Edoardo Amaldi.

Europe’s ATV space freighter proved its maturity in 2008, when Jules Verne completed a demonstration flight to the International Space Station (ISS), docked with 4.5 tonnes of food, water, fuel, supplies and equipment, served as a propulsion module for six months and finally undocked and entered Earth’s atmosphere over the southern Pacific. The ATV spacecraft are key to the Station’s logistics and operations. They are an excellent demonstration of Europe’s capability in creating space infrastructure for human spaceflight and exploration. The first ATV was named after the visionary French science-fiction writer Jules Verne, and the second honoured German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler.


Astrium Puts Second ATV Johannes Kepler Through Tests in Bremen



“Johannes Kepler”, the second unmanned European cargo spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), is currently undergoing its first flightworthiness and functionality tests as a fully integrated unit at the Astrium facility in Bremen. Preparations for the final system tests are running at full capacity.


ATV Operations Team Wins Prestigious Gold Medal Prize

ESA's ATV team wins the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal in the 'team' category, London, 10 December 2009.  Credits: Royal Aeronautical Society/T. Taylor
ESA's ATV team wins the Royal Aeronautical Society Gold Medal in the 'team' category, London, 10 December 2009. Credits: Royal Aeronautical Society/T. Taylor


The UK’s Royal Aeronautical Society has awarded its top Gold Medal Team prize to ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle operations team, in recognition of their achievement in operating ATV Jules Verne during its 2008 mission to the International Space Station.

The Gold Medal is conferred for work of outstanding achievement in aerospace.


Astrium to Study Re-entry Upgrade for ATV



In Bremen on Tuesday 7 July 2009, the second European space transporter, ATV-2 – developed in association with, and with the support of, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) – was presented to the public. It was officially given the name of the German astronomer and scholar Johannes Kepler.