Five years ago today — March 9, 2008 — the European Space Agency launched an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou carrying the Jules Verne cargo vehicle to the International Space Station.
(ISS crewmembers pose for a portrait inside the Jules Verne ATV with an original Jules Verne manuscript and a 19th century Jules Verne book. NASA image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Jules Verne, also known as Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) 1,
remained a “free-flyer” until the undocking of STS 123 on 27 March. It successfully demonstrated the ability to reach ISS within 3.5 km with the help of GPS transmissions, and, in another attempt, to reach within 11 m with the help of laser ranging. These demonstrations earned the approval by the ISS managers to make an actual docking with the Zvezda module of the ISS on 03 April 2008.
The cargo vessel remained docked to the ISS for six months; then, filled with garbage from the station, it undocked and deorbited. It burned up in the atmosphere on September 29, 2008.
Of particular note to me (and presumably to my geeky and writerly friends), the ATV carried an original Jules Verne manuscript into space. That speaks highly of ESA’s confidence in the craft and the Ariane launch vehicle.by