Toulouse, 25 April 2008 – The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) has successfully re-boosted the International Space Station (ISS) to a higher altitude.
“This was an important event for Airbus Defence and Space, as it validated one of the major tasks of the ATV’s inaugural flight, demonstrating the ability of the ‘Jules Verne’ to lift the ISS back into the correct orbit,” said Alain Charmeau, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.
“The operation was performed with the same propulsion system used to manoeuvre the ATV itself. This ‘double use’ was taken into account from the outset of the project of the European Space Agency and incorporated in the design of the propulsion system, both in terms of the engines employed and the amount of fuel required,” explains Nicolas Chamussy, ATV Programme Manager at Airbus Defence and Space.
280 tons boosted by 4.7 kilometres
The orbital altitude of the ISS steadily declines as a result of atmospheric drag. It therefore has to be regularly re-boosted by increasing its speed, which causes it to rise. What is more, space debris circling the Earth sometimes crosses the orbital path of the space station and threatens to hit and puncture its inhabited sections, putting the lives of the crew at risk. The re-boost function makes it possible to perform escape manoeuvres to avoid such debris in the interest of crew safety.
The ISS is travelling at a speed of 7700 m/s and weighs 280 metric tons. The re-boost manoeuvre took 13 minutes. In accelerating the station by 2,67 m/s, the ATV was able to lift it by 4.7 kilometres. To do this, the computers on board the ISS ignited two of the ATV’s four main engines, generating a total thrust of 1000 newtons. This is equivalent to lifting 100 kg on Earth. If one of the two engines fails, the on-board control system is programmed to switch to the other two engines.
Such re-boost manoeuvres are carried out periodically (about once a month) to push the ISS back into position. The next manoeuvres are scheduled for June, July and August.
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 2007, Airbus Defence and Space had a turnover of €3.5 billion and 12,000 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, and Airbus Defence and Space for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Airbus Defence and Space for the development and delivery of satellite services. AIRBUS Group is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In 2007, AIRBUS Group generated revenues of €39.1 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.
Matthieu Duvelleroy (Airbus Defence and Space FR) Phone: +33 (0) 1 77 75 80 32
Jeremy Close (Airbus Defence and Space UK) Phone: +44 (0)1 438 77 3872
Francisco Lechón (Airbus Defence and Space SP) Phone: +34 (0) 91 586 37 41