ATV, the next step
The successful docking of the European Columbus module and the launch of the Automated Transfer Vehicle have opened a new era for Europe’s presence in space with the aspiration to consolidate its independence.
Now, ESA is working on a proposed programme to develop new versions of the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The projects ESA is considering are essentially based on a re-use of the ATV's service module and the replacement of the integrated cargo carrier with a re-entry capsule. This would allow for atmospheric re-entry, bringing down to the Earth first some cargo and then in the future a complete crew. ESA and its industrial partners will have to develop new technologies to satisfy other crucial requirements, such as the ejection system to ensure the absolute safety of a space capsule’s crew in case of an anomaly on the launch pad or during its ascent phase.