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“automated transfer vehicle”
Airbus to Bring First Mars Samples to Earth: ESA Contract Award

ERO will reach Mars orbit, capture orbiting samples launched from the Red Planet and bring them back to Earth. (Credit: Airbus)
  • A new decade of European exploration – to the Moon and Mars
  • Airbus to design and build the Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) for Mars Sample Return (MSR) campaign
  • ERO will reach Mars orbit, capture orbiting samples launched from the Red Planet and bring them back to Earth

TOULOUSE, 14 October 2020 (Airbus PR) – Airbus has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) as prime contractor for the Mars Sample Return’s Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) – the first ever spacecraft to bring samples back to Earth from Mars. Mars Sample Return (MSR) is a joint ESA-NASA campaign and the next step in the exploration of Mars. ERO and the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) are the two main European elements of MSR, both are set to be designed and built by Airbus.

A manipulating arm, referred to as the Sample Transfer Arm (STA), that will transfer the samples from the SFR to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), is the third European contribution to the MSR program. The value of the ERO contract is €491 million [$574.8 million].

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  • October 16, 2020
Astrium Puts Second ATV Johannes Kepler Through Tests in Bremen



“Johannes Kepler”, the second unmanned European cargo spacecraft for the International Space Station (ISS), is currently undergoing its first flightworthiness and functionality tests as a fully integrated unit at the Astrium facility in Bremen. Preparations for the final system tests are running at full capacity.


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  • January 15, 2010
Astrium Working on ATV Re-entry Technology for ISS Cargo Return


ESA is spending about $30.4 million on a study of re-entry technology that could be used to return cargo from the International Space Station, according to an Astrium press release. The project is an evolution of the space agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, a robotic freighter that is currently burned up in the atmosphere after its ISS flight.


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  • January 14, 2010
ESA ATV Undocks from ISS, Near Completion of First Mission

5 September 2009

At the end of a flawless six-month mission, Jules Verne, Europe’s first Automated Transfer Vehicle, undocked from the International Space Station today at 23:29 hours CEST. The ATV has now embarked on the last leg of its journey in space, which will end with a controlled destructive re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on 29 September.


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  • September 7, 2008
New Russian-European Spacecraft Design Unveiled; Upgraded ATV Proposed

Manned spaceship design unveiled BBC News “It is designed to replace the Soyuz vehicle currently in use by Russia and will allow Europe to participate directly in crew transportation. The reusable ship was conceived to carry four people towards the Moon, rivalling the US Ares/Orion system…. “‘If ESA and the Russian Space Agency reach agreement, Europe will supply the service module of that co-operative spacecraft,’ [Anatoly] Zak told BBC News. […]

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  • July 22, 2008
ATV Mission Animation Posted

The European Space Agency has posted an animation of the flight of it Automated Transfer Vehicle Jules Verne. The video shows the launch, docking, and de-orbiting of the robotic cargo spacecraft, which is set for launch to International Space Station on March 9. The ATV can deliver 7.2 metric tons of cargo and supplies to ISS.

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  • March 4, 2008