ATV Lifts Off from French Guiana

The Ariane 5 lifted off successfully at 04:03 UT Sunday from the European Spaceport in French Guiana carrying ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle. The robotic spacecraft, dubbed Jules Verne, is bound for the International Space Station to deliver 7 metric tons of equipment and supplies.

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with ISS several weeks from now after the space shuttle Endeavour completes its construction mission. Endeavour is schedule for launch on March 11 and is schedule to stay 16 days at the station.

ATV will conduct system checks for several weeks, including two approaches to the orbital outpost as well as “escape” maneuvers to back away from the station. The tests are designed to verify software and prevent any collision with ISS.

“The two approach tests will give ESA, NASA and Rocket Space Corp. Energia time to critically examine the performance of ATV’s systems,” said Brian Smith, NASA’s lead ATV flight director. “ATV must pass these tests before it will be allowed to initiate the final rendezvous and docking. The tests have been designed to verify the systems vital to ensuring the safety of the ISS and its crew perform as expected.”