Airbus Defence and Space

Rendez-Vous in Space : ATV Jules Verne reaches its destination

Toulouse, 3 April 2008 – “This is the first time that a space vehicle has performed a totally automatic rendezvous,” declared a delighted François Auque, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, from the ATV control centre in Toulouse. “Europe is now well and truly on board the ISS.”


Three global successes for Airbus Defence and Space in two months

Following the docking of Columbus with the ISS on 11 February, the launch of the ATV by a new version of Ariane 5 on 9 March, and now the docking of the ATV with the ISS, Airbus Defence and Space has just achieved three brilliant successes. Through the European Space Agency’s (ESA) programmes, Airbus Defence and Space is becoming a key industrial partner of the ISS.

This success reinforces Airbus Defence and Space’s unique position as the prime contractor for space systems in Europe. The ATV’s architecture is complex because of the safety requirements intrinsic to manned spaceflight. Furthermore, the architecture integrates unique equipment and technology which is being used for the very first time:

  • relative GPS navigation technology, which filters the raw data obtained from GPS receivers on the ATV and ISS, in order to calculate extremely accurate information on position and speed
  • optical navigation sensors (a videometer and a telegoniometer) developed for the ATV programme, which use laser beams

This success is also partly due to the flight software developed by Airbus Defence and Space. The flight application software (FAS) handles the vehicle management, and has more than a million lines of code. The Monitoring and Safing Unit (MSU) software, which takes control of the ATV in the event of a contingency, is the first Category A software – which means that a validation process has examined every one of its software branches – to be developed in Europe for a space programme. The software has not required any modifications since being validated almost two years ago, which shows the quality of the software engineering.

The flight of the Jules Verne ATV is therefore the first time that a relative GPS-based navigation system and orbital rendezvous optical sensors have ever been used in operation on an automated vehicle.

Airbus Defence and Space and the ISS - beyond Jules Verne

“This third success is only a stepping stone. The docking of the Jules Verne paves the way for future adaptations of the ATV. The ATV design allows us to envisage changes in its use such as the capability to bring experiments, equipment or people back to Earth,” stated François Auque, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, from the ATV control centre in Toulouse. “It is absolutely essential that the development of such systems is one of the priorities of the next ESA ministerial conference, which will be held between now and the end of 2008.”

The ATV should now remain docked with the ISS for four months. The astronauts will transfer the cargo and the ATV will perform several manoeuvres to re-boost the station. At the end of its mission, the ATV will be loaded with waste. After undocking, the ATV will then deorbit and burn up in the upper layers of the atmosphere.

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 more than 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.


Media Contacts:

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


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