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Euro Space Truck Back On Course After Engine Hiccup

by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) March 13, 2008
A European-made robotic space freighter has reached a test orbit after overcoming a minor hiccup following its launch last weekend, ESA said Thursday.

On Wednesday, ESA technicians overcame a hitch in onboard computers after the ATV's propulsion system was partially closed down because of a differential in pressure between propellant compounds. In the coming days, the ATV will be tested for its collision avoidance system, ESA said.

The so-called Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), taken aloft from ESA's base in Kourou, French Guiana, successfully performed two burns by its main engines that boosted it to a height of 303 kilometres (189 miles), it said.

"The entire spacecraft is working beautifully and the actual degree of control during these boosts has been even better than expected," said ATV project manager John Ellwood in a press statement.

The freighter is designed to dock automatically with the International Space Station (ISS) on April 3, delivering 7.5 tonnes of water, food and other essential to its crew.

The first ATV is named after Jules Verne, the French author who pioneered science fiction.

Designing and building it has cost ESA 1.3 billion euros (2.01 billion dollars). Four more cargo ships are in the works, with their assembly and launch each costing just over 300 million euros.

The maiden rendezvous with the ISS, which was launched on Sunday and is now orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 340 kilometres (212 miles), will take place after the US shuttle Endeavour has completed its mission to the outpost.

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Jules Verne On Track For Long Journey To ISS
Paris, France (ESA) Mar 12, 2008
Following an overnight recovery operation, Jules Verne ATV's propulsion system has successfully been restored to full robustness. The spacecraft has since performed the first orbital manoeuvres necessary to set up phasing with the International Space Station.

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