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The ATV operations control centre

The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is a partly automated cargo spacecraft. It is a major European contribution to the International Space Station (ISS), and the most complex vehicle ever developed by ESA. It is 3 times larger than a Russian Progress vessel and the second largest vehicle to reach the ISS, after the American shuttles. It is thus a major technological breakthrough for replenishing the ISS.

A dedicated Ariane 5 launched the first ATV spacecraft, called Jules Verne, on March 9, 2008. Its docking with the Russian Zvezda module on April 4, 2008 was a perfectly controlled technological feat. 7 months later, Jules Vernes  was guided by the the ATV Control Center to a destructive re-entry into the atmosphere.

The ATV regularly ferries up to 8 tons of freight (fuel, water, scientific equipment and other supplies) to the ISS. The cargo remains docked to the ISS for several months while its cargo is unloaded, and its then filled with waste from the station, before heading towards a deliberate disintegration in the Earth's atmosphere during re-entry phase. While docked, it is used to restore the station's nominal attitude with its thrusters when necessary, for example to avoid a collision.

The ATV Control Centre (ATV-CC) has been installed since 2002 at the Toulouse Space Centre. Managed by CNES on behalf of ESA, the ATV-CC conducts operations and coordinates all ground facilities during ATV flights, in coordination with the ISS control centres in Moscow and Houston, which are indispensable partners for the ATV project.

In particular, the ATV-CC draws up the mission plan and then prepares and validates control systems. It tracks every phase of ATV flights, including docking with the ISS, orbit stabilization and transfer manoeuvres, and at the end of the mission, releasing from the ISS, deorbiting and atmospheric re-entry.

After the success of the Jules Verne, Johannes Kepler, Edoardo Amaldi and Albert Einstein missions, the ATV-CC is now gearing up for the last flight of ATV, with ATV-5 called Georges Lemaître, scheduled to launch on July 2014.

ATV-CC (Control Centre)
Initiator ESA
Participants CNES, ESA
Objective Track and control ATV missions

1st mission : Jules Verne on 9 March 2008, on Ariane 5 dedicated launcher
2nd mission : Johannes Kepler on 16 February 2010 on Ariane 5 dedicated launcher
3rd mission : Edoardo Amaldi on 23 March 2012 on Ariane 5 dedicated launcher
4th mission : Albert Einstein on June 2013 on Ariane 5 dedicated launcher
5th mission : Georges Lemaître on 2014 on Ariane 5 dedicated launcher

Last updated : March 2014.



ATV-5 docked with the International Space Station

August 14, 2014

Europe’s fifth ISS cargo resupply ship, sent aloft 30 July by an Ariane 5 launcher, reached its destination this Tuesday 12 August. The station crew will be opening the hatch in a few days’ time. See multi-camera footage of the final minutes of the docking sequence here.


ATV-4 safely on its way to the ISS

June 05, 2013

The 4th European resupply cargo spacecraft began its journey to the International Space Station (ISS) this Wednesday 5 June when it was lofted into space by an Ariane 5 ES launcher. The launch occurred as scheduled from the Guiana Space Centre at 18:52 local time (23:52 CET).


ATV-3 Edoardo Amaldi leaves ISS

October 01, 2012

The 3rd European resupply vehicle undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on 28 September, ending a 6-month stay during which it ferried food and fuel to the crew.