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N° 37–2000: International Space Station gets a boost from Europe

7 June 2000

Europe commits to the operational phase of the International Space Station by procuring launch services for nine Automated Transfer Vehicles to re-boost and re-supply the Station. Contract signed today at ILA in Berlin.

Through an unprecedented contract placed today at the ILA2000 aerospace exhibition in Berlin with Arianespace, the world market leader in launch services, ESA has ensured the launch of nine Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV) with the European Ariane 5 launcher. ESA's ATV vehicle, currently in an advanced stage of development by a consortium led by Aerospatiale Matra Lanceurs of Les Mureaux in France, will supply the International Space Station (ISS) with necessary cargo and experiments, and will perform its critical orbit raising maneuverv (reboost). These nine ATVs will cover European ISS operations for ten years, the planned nominal lifetime of the International Space Station.

This contract is a crucial step towards Europe meeting its commitment in the operations and utilisation of the International Space Station, as reflected in the agreements signed in January 1998 by all the Space Station Partners (Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia and the U.S.).

The development phase of the European participation in the ISS, including the ATV, was approved by ESA Member States in October 1995 at a meeting of the ESA Council at Ministerial level. In May 1999, the Ministers in charge of Space activities decided to proceed with the operations and utilisation phase of this participation, which includes, among others, the production and operations of the ATV during the period 2003-2013 with a launch by Ariane 5 approximately every 15 months.

The ATV will play a crucial role in the operations and utilisation of the International Space Station by performing two missions: a re-boost mission and a logistic mission. The re-boost mission permits to raise the altitude of the Station at regular intervals which, due to the existence of small atmospheric drag even in orbit, is permanently lowering its orbit . The logistic mission will permit, on the one hand, to transport unpressurised cargo such as propellant and other liquids to the International Space Station, assuring those services necessary to run and maintain the station during its operational life. On the other hand, the ATV can carry into orbit, in a pressurised cargo module, European payload and experiments for ESA's Columbus or other laboratories of the Station. Moreover, ISS trash and waste will be disposed of via the ATV during its controlled destructive atmospheric re-entry.

The combination Ariane 5/ATV performing these ISS logistic missions will also permit Europe to pay "in-kind" rather than in cash its part of the ISS common system operation costs, which are shared among all the Partners in the ISS endeavour. The nine Ariane5/ATV missions are intended to cover the European part of these costs, amounting to 8.3 % of the total station costs, during ten years operations.

The nine ATV, of which the launches are now ensured, will be produced and operated by European industry in the frame of the industrialisation of European ISS operations during the ISS exploitation phase under a single ESA contract. The ATV launch services contract will be later integrated in this European ISS industrial operations contract, planned to be awarded by ESA in the course of 2001.

For further information, please contact:

ESA Communication Department

Media Relations Office

Tel.: + 33 1 5369 7155

Fax.: + 33 1 5369 7690

More information on the ATV at http://www.estec.esa.nl/spaceflight/

More information on ESA at http://www.esa.int


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