Europe to Launch Space Truck

Automated vehicle can haul tons of supplies to space station
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2008 3:20 PM CST
This photo released by the European Space Agency shows the Ariane-5 ES rocket on a launch pad after it was rolled out in Kouru, French Guyana, Saturday March 8, 2008. This launcher, which carries Europe's...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Europe is about to launch its most sophisticated spacecraft ever, the BBC reports. The “Jules Verne,” set to take off tomorrow, will deliver supplies to the International Space Station while nudging the station higher into its orbit to prevent it from falling to Earth. The freighter is fully automated—no humans aboard—marking a major step toward manned European missions.

The ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) is “very important as a development,” said the European Space Agency’s program manager. “ATV is a marriage of human spacecrafts and satellites. It’s a very complicated spacecraft.” The ship will blast into space on a specially strengthened Ariane-5 rocket and will remain docked at the station for about six months.