Fifteen years ago today, the first ATV, named “Jules Verne”, was launched. It was the first spacecraft of the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) programme, which aimed to develop a series of unmanned spacecraft that could supply the International Space Station (ISS) with cargo, fuel, and other necessary supplies. This spacecraft was developed and built by Airbus in Bremen and it was this expertise that led to the company's pivotal role in NASA's Artemis programme.

The ATV-1 Jules Verne was the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by Europe at the time of its launch, weighing in at nearly 20 tons. It was also the first vehicle to perform a fully automated docking with the ISS, using a combination of GPS and optical sensors to navigate to its destination. The ATV-1 was designed to stay docked with the ISS for up to six months, during which time it would serve as a "space tug" to reboost the station's orbit and adjust its attitude as needed.


ATV Infographic EN


In addition to its logistical role, the ATV-1 Jules Verne also carried several scientific payloads to the ISS, including experiments in biology, material science, and radiation dosimetry. After completing its mission, the ATV-1 was deorbited as planned and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere, as is standard practice for spacecraft at the end of their operational lives.

Overall, the ATV-1 Jules Verne was a major achievement for the European Space Agency and a significant contribution to the ongoing international effort to maintain the ISS and conduct scientific research in space.

And it is ATV's genes, the basis for the European Service Module that powers the Orion spacecraft that will return humans to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis programme.


Key details about the ATV-1 Jules Verne:


  • Launch date: 9 March 2008
  • Launch vehicle: Ariane 5 rocket
  • Mission duration: 145 days
  • Payload: 4.6 tons of supplies, including food, water, air, and scientific equipment
  • Named after: The French science fiction author Jules Verne, who wrote the novel "From the Earth to the Moon" in 1865.


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