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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 21:09 GMT
ATV: A truck engineered for space
Nicolas Chamussy (BBC)

The "Jules Verne" is Europe's first Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) to fly to the International Space Station.

Built for the European Space Agency (Esa), the ATV is a sophisticated, automated spacecraft that can find its own way to the orbiting platform.

It docks at the Russian end of the ISS. Once attached, astronauts can enter its pressurised module and remove several tonnes of cargo - air, water, scientific equipment, food, and clothing.

The vehicle will also pipe fuel through to the station; and even use its own thrusters to maintain the platform's altitude.

Nicolas Chamussy is the ATV programme manager at prime contractors EADS Astrium.

Cost: Total bill was 1.3bn euros (at least 4 more ATVs will be built)
Total cargo capacity: 7.6 tonnes, but first mission will fly lighter
Mass at launch: About 20 tonnes depending on cargo manifest
Dimensions: 10.3m long and 4.5m wide - the size of a large bus
Solar panels: Once unfolded, the solar wings span 22.3m
Engine power: 4x 490-Newton thrusters; and 28x 220N thrusters

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