ESA's supply ship
At present, astronauts cannot grow their own food in orbit. They rely on fresh supplies arriving every few months.
Until recently, all the food, water, air and spare parts that the crews need were brought by the U.S. Shuttle and Russian unmanned Progress ships. This changed in 2008, when a new supply ship – ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) – made its maiden flight. Named Jules Verne, after a famous French writer of science fiction, the ATV docked with the ISS on 3 April. When its mission was complete, it was sent into the atmosphere and burnt up on 29 September.
Each ATV is launched on Europe's Ariane-5 rocket. The flight to the ISS usually lasts five days.
At the end of its useful life, the ATV becomes a waste disposal truck. Loaded with up to 6.3 tonnes of rubbish, it is commanded to burn up in the atmosphere.
Last update: 11 November 2010