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Science & Exploration

N° 20–2014: Call for Media: Last ATV ends an era and opens new chapter of human space exploration

15 July 2014

The fifth and last Automated Transfer Vehicle is scheduled to lift off during the night of 24 July (25 July 01:43 GMT, 25 July 03:43 CEST, 24 July 22:43 local time) from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 5ES rocket. It will dock with the International Space Station on 12 August and undock up to six months later for reentry into the atmosphere, bringing the programme to a fiery end.

ATV is the most complex spacecraft ever built in Europe, combining fully automated rendezvous capabilities with advanced features to ensure human safety in orbit and on the ground.

Since its first voyage in March 2008, ATV has been an indispensable part of the International Space Station. It has the largest cargo capacity of all vehicles that resupply the orbital outpost, delivering dry and liquid cargo and boosting its altitude to compensate for orbital decay.

Although not designed to carry astronauts, ATV is fully pressurised, allowing it to serve as additional storage and work space for the crew while attached to the Station. And when it leaves after its six-month stay, the versatile vehicle carries waste to burn up as it reenters the atmosphere over an uninhabited area of the South Pacific.

In addition to its primary functions, ATV-5 – named after Belgian scientist Georges Lemaître, who first formulated the Big Bang theory – will test hardware and procedures to help prepare for future space transportation.

One experiment is the LIRIS experimental laser infrared imaging sensor, to develop guidance, navigation and control systems for rendezvous with non-cooperative targets such as space debris and asteroids.

“Georges Lemaître may be the last ATV, but the programme is just the first important step in ESA’s human space adventure,” says Thomas Reiter, ESA’s Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.

“The ATV programme has helped to generate key technologies that will serve as a solid basis for future human space-transportation endeavours.”

ATV technology is helping in the design of the European Service Module for NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle that will carry astronauts and cargo on future exploration missions beyond Earth orbit.

ESA has so far agreed to supply two modules for Orion: one for its maiden flight in 2017, the other for the first operational mission in 2021. The preliminary design review was completed on 23 May.

In addition, ATV technology could be used in other capacities, such as for returning samples from space, space-tug operations and orbital servicing and repair. Control facilities, simulators and other hardware put in place for the programme could be integrated into future space transportation projects.

Airbus is the main industrial partner for building ATV, while Thales Alenia Space Italy supplied the shell and cargo hold. More than three dozen companies from 10 European countries, Russia and the US participate in the programme, involving around 2000 people in ESA and industry.

Covering the launch

Media event

Planetarium of Brussels, Boechoutlaan/Avenue de Bouchout 10, B-1020 Brussels. Tel: +32 2 474 70 50, opening hours: 02:00–05:00 CEST.

For further information, please contact:
Anna Jacobs, Communications Officer, Email:, Mob: +31 6 5234 5872


In cooperation with Arianespace, ESA TV provides broadcasters with free live videostream of the launch. Several stories have also been prepared, on the ATV-5 mission and ATV heritage. More information at:


ESA’s Portal will cover the launch live on, providing the videostream and updates of the launch.


The latest high-resolution images can be found at:

ESA’s Multimedia Gallery:
ESA's Photo Library for Professionals:
Media image queries can be directed to

Social media

Follow ATVGeorges Lemaitre via:

–      Twitter: @ESA, @ESAOperations and the hashtag #ATV5

–      ESA’s ATV Blog:

–      Flickr ATV-5 launch campaign album:

In addition, there will be updates on:

–      Facebook:

–      Google+:

–      Youtube:


About the European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. It is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

ESA has 20 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 18 are Member States of the EU.

ESA has Cooperation Agreements with eight other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.

ESA is also working with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.

By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country.

ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.

Today, it launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.

For further information:

ESA Media Relations Office


Tel: + 33 1 53 69 72 99