Europe’s Jules Verne docked with the International Space Station at 10:45 AM Eastern time while the two vehicles flew more than 200 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. Seven minutes later, a series of clamps firmly secured the cargo ship to the space station.
“The docking of the A.T.V. is a new and spectacular step in the demonstration of European capabilities on the international scene of space exploration,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency.
Jules Verne, named after the visionary French science fiction author, is the first of a new class of station supply ships called Automatic Transfer Vehicles. The space craft was built by the countries of the European Space Agency as one of Europe’s major contributions to the international station.
The docking arrived at the successful end of a four-hour waiting period in space as the ATV maneuvered to approach the station, automatically using GPS navigation and a new optical guidance system to close the remaining gap. A twin laser system fired pulses of light at reflectors positioned on the end of the station’s Russian-built Zvezda service module to determine the Jules Verne’s orientation, distance and closing rate.
The automatic docking was monitored from the control center in France, in cooperation with the Russian space station control center near Moscow and the NASA center in Houston.
The Jules Verne cargo ship was launched on March 9 and spent 26 days in space checking out its systems and awaiting for space shuttle Endeavour to arrive last week before docking. It conducted a series of successful approach and avoidance tests with the station last Saturday and Monday.
The automatic space ship is carrying 7.5 tons of fuel, oxygen, food, clothing, equipment and other essentials for the international space station.
Astronauts aboard the space station will open the hatch of the craft on Friday to take air samples and set up a preliminary air cleaner. The crew will then retrieve supplies on Saturday and Monday from the cargo ship.
The Jules Verne will spend four months docked to the space station.