Airbus Defence and Space

Manned Space Missions Press releases

Airbus Defence and Space ships ATV "Johannes Kepler"


  • Second ATV en route to Kourou

  • "Johannes Kepler" scheduled to fly to the ISS at the end of 2010

  • ATV plays an indispensable role in carrying supplies to the ISS


Bremen, 11 May 2010 – "Johannes Kepler", the second European spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), is on its way to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has undergone extensive system testing at Airbus Defence and Space’s Bremen site over the last few months and has now been given the go-ahead for the final preparation stage prior to the cargo spacecraft's flight to the ISS. "Johannes Kepler" is slated for launch at the end of 2010. On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for both the development and production of the ATV. The production of ATV units two to five – as well as mission preparation and operations support – is covered by the contract, which governs the operation and provision of the European components of the ISS. Airbus Defence and Space is responsible for carrying out these activities on behalf of ESA.


“Johannes Kepler” is the first production unit, following on from the highly successful first flight model “Jules Verne”, explained Dr. Michael Menking, Senior Vice President of Orbital Systems and Space Exploration at Airbus Defence and Space, as the ATV will set off from Bremen tomorrow. "At present Airbus Defence and Space has orders for a total of four ATV production units from ESA, which is testimony to the high reliability Airbus Defence and Space has shown as ESA's prime contractor for the development of ATV and also the Columbus space laboratory. The extension of the ISS mission until 2020 presents Airbus Defence and Space with further opportunities in regard to both the supply and operation of the ISS. For example, two further ATVs will be needed for supply operations between now and 2020.” Dr Menking also confirmed that production of the ATV units is currently running according to schedule: Johannes Kepler is on its way to Kourou, ATV 3 "Edoardo Amaldi" has reached the integration stage in Bremen, ATV 4 integration is set to start shortly and ATV 5 is entering the equipment manufacturing stage.


"After an internal review of the status of ATV 'Johannes Kepler' we have given Airbus Defence and Space the "consent-to-ship" certificate which is an important milestone. This demonstrates the ability of European industry under the leadership of Airbus Defence and Space to provide the vehicle on time and with the required quality.", said Simonetta di Pippo, ESA Director for Human Space Flight.


"When the US Space Shuttle will be retired at the end of the year ATV will be the largest vehicle supplying the ISS. Considering its technological challenges, like automatic rendezvous & docking, ATV is the most sophisticated space vehicle ever built in Europe. The technology and experience gained with the development of the ATV represents an asset for Europe and its industrial competitiveness. It also provides a solid basis to further develop Europe’s position among the leaders in the exploitation and exploration of space, in LEO and beyond," added Di Pippo.


ATV must comply with the safety requirements for human spaceflight. Thus ATV’s digital and electronic architecture features double and triple redundancies. A fault-tolerant computer – consisting of three computer modules – ensures the reliable and smooth execution of the ATV mission.


 “Johannes Kepler” will be shipped in several parts to the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, accompanied by 59 sea containers filled with test equipment. At Kourou's space port final assembly will be performed on the spacecraft, Integrated Cargo Carrier (ICC), solar panels and the Separation and Distancing Module (SDM), which forms the interface between the ATV and Ariane. The ATV will then be subjected to further extensive tests on site before being loaded, fuelled and installed within the payload fairing of an Ariane 5. “According to our planning schedule we will be ready to launch this second mission to the ISS at the end of 2010”, added Dr Menking. It is planned to produce the other ATVs in a programme of one per year.


With the ATV, Europe provides its contribution to supply the International Space Station. On a typical mission, the ATV carries water, fuel, food and scientific equipment to the ISS. Once its mission is over, the ATV is loaded with waste, undocked from the ISS and burns up during a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The ATV is also responsible for regularly boosting the ISS to its operational orbit of around 400 km and performs manoeuvres to avoid collisions with space debris.


The 20 tonnes ATV has a maximum net cargo capacity of up to 7 metric tons. The composition of this load can vary depending on the mission: 1.5 to 5.5 metric tons of freight and supplies (food, research instruments, tools, etc.), up to 840 kilograms of drinking water, up to 100 kilograms of gases (air, oxygen and nitrogen), up to four metric tons of fuel for orbit correction and up to 860 kilograms of propellant to refuel the space station.


As part of an ESA study, Airbus Defence and Space is conducting research into a reusable Advanced Re-entry Vehicle (ARV) based on ATV technology. The work will examine the requirements placed on a system designed to transport freight to the International Space Station and back to Earth. A total of €21 million is being invested in this preliminary phase of ESA’s ARV programme. There are many good reasons for pursuing this line of development, given that there will only be limited capacity for bringing back materials from the space station to Earth once the Americans retire the Space Shuttles at the end of 2010. After that, the only available vehicle for transporting materials and crew to and from the ISS to Earth will be the Russian Soyuz capsule.


About Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space, a wholly owned subsidiary of AIRBUS Group, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2009, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €4.8 billion and more than 15,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are Airbus Defence and Space for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment and Airbus Defence and Space for the development and provision of secure and commercial satcoms and networks, high security satellite communications equipment, geo-information products and services, and navigation services.


AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2009, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €42.8 billion and employed a workforce of more than 119, 000.


Press contacts:

Daniel Mosely (Airbus Defence and Space UK)                                                      Tel.: +44 (0)1 438 77 8180

Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR)                                              Tel.: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32

Ralph Heinrich (Airbus Defence and Space GER)                                                   Tel.: +49 (0) 89 607 33971

Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP)                                                 Tel.: +34 91 586 37 41 




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