Airbus Defence and Space

Manned Space Missions All programmes

ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle)

Lifeline to Earth. The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) ferries propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) ferries propellants, food, water and equipment to the ISS. Once docked, it uses its own engines to correct the station’s orbit, compensating for a regular loss of altitude due to drag and contributes to collision and debris avoidance. At the end of its mission it is filled with waste, de-docked and burns up as it heads back into the Earth's atmosphere.

The first ATV, dubbed ‘Jules Verne’, was launched by an Ariane 5 on 9 March 2008 and performed a perfect docking with the ISS on 3 April 2008. The ATV is thus the first spacecraft in the world to carry out an automatic rendezvous and docking with a space station. A total of five missions are planned for the period up to 2015. The second ATV, ‘Johannes Kepler’, was launched on 16 February 2011 and docked successfully on 24 February 2011. The third ATV, ‘Edoardo Amaldi’, was launched on 23 March 2012 and docked successfully on 29 March 2012.

The fourth ATV, named ‘Albert Einstein’, was successfully launched on 5 June 2013.

Under contract to the European Space Agency (ESA), Airbus Defence and Space is industrial prime contractor for the ATV.

ATV cut off


ATV 2 Specifications


Length: 9,794 mm (probe retracted)
Largest diameter: 4,480 mm
Solar arrays span: 22,281 mm

Mass Budget

Vehicle dry mass:
10,470 kg
Vehicle consumables: 2,613 kg
Total vehicle mass: 13,083 kg
Total cargo upload capacity: 7,500 kg
Mass at launch (max): 20,750 kg
Waste download capacity: 6,300 kg (420 km altitude,
51.6° inclination)


Main propulsion system: 4 x 490 N thrusters
(Pressurized liquid bi-propellant
Attitude control system: 28 x 220 N thrusters
(Pressurized liquid bi-propellant
Propellant: Monomethyl hydrazine fuel and
tetroxide oxidizer
Pressurization: Helium pressurant at 31 MPa

Communications Infrastructure

To ground: S-band via TDRS satellite
ATV to ISS: S-band antenna via Proximity link
Navigation: GPS

Thermal/Environmental Control

Thermal Control: Multi Layer Insulation material, active thermal control using Variable & Constant Conductive Heat Pipes and paints
ECLSS: Fire detection, air circulation,
air temperature monitoring

Electrical Power

Ascent to ISS and de-orbit: 4 Solar panel wings of 4 panels each and 40 Ah rechargeable batteries
Number of arrays: 4
Number of panels/array: 4
Generated power: 3,800 W after 6 months in orbit
Required power: < 400 W Dormant mode
supplied by ISS: < 900 W Active mode

Main Construction Material

Pressure shell: Al - 2219
Micrometeoroid and
Debris Protection System:

Primary bumper: Al-6061-T6
Secondary bumper: Nextel/Kevlar blankets
Internal structure (racks): Al-6061-T6
Thermal insulation: Goldised Kapton Multi-layer
Insulation blanket & aluminised beta cloth
Solar arrays: Silicium Solar Cells on 4 Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic Sandwich panels

Launcher Configuration

Payload: 8 racks with 2 x 0.314 m3
and 2 x 0.414 m3
envelope: each 1.146 m3 in front of 4 of these
8 racks
Cargo mass: Dry cargo: 1,500 - 5,500 kg
Water: 0 - 840 kg
Gas (Nitrogen, Oxygen, air,
2 gases/flight): 0 - 100 kg
ISS Refueling propellant: 0 - 860 kg (306
kg of fuel, 554 kg of oxidizer)
ISS re-boost and attitude control
propellant: 0 - 4,700kg
Total cargo upload capacity: 7,667 kg
Launch vehicle: Ariane 5 (300 x 300 km, 51.6° transfer
orbit) ATV-2 will be launched with its
solar panels folded to the body of the
spacecraft. Electrical power will be
supplied by non rechargeable batteries.
Launch site: Kourou, French Guiana
Launch date: 15 February 2011



Download Brochure

ATV: A cargo tug for the International Space Station ( PDF, 2.5 MB)