Airbus Defence and Space

Last flight of the ATV

With the undocking of ATV-5, ‘Georges Lemaître’, a major mission of the European space industry moves into its final phase.

On14 February, the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) will undock from the International Space Station (ISS) before burning up shortly after in the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere. This is the final flight of the ATV, and hence the close of a particularly successful chapter in the history of European space travel.

Over the past seven years, a total of five ATVs have kept the astronauts on board the ISS supplied with food, water, oxygen, fuel and research material. Each was able to transport nearly seven tonnes of equipment – more than any other freight transporter. The ATVs remained docked with the space station for up to six months at a time, using thrust manoeuvres to make orbit corrections, providing the astronauts with a much-appreciated quiet space, and taking the astronauts’ rubbish away with them at the end.

The service module on board the US spaceship ‘Orion’ will for a large part be based on ATV technology and will assume central system functions such as propulsion, energy and thermal regulation, and will also supply water and air. However, in contrast to the ATV, Orion won’t just carry freight, but humans too.  Orion is intended to take up to four astronauts deeper into space than anyone has gone before – to the moon, asteroids, even Mars. As early as the end of this decade, an unmanned test flight to the moon should demonstrate whether the European space industry is ready for the next ‘giant leap’.

ATVATV-5 “Georges Lemaître”