Page last updated at 08:38 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 09:38 UK

Freighter raises station altitude

ATV (Nasa)
Jules Verne is a European Space Agency mission

The "Jules Verne" freighter has lifted the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) by a record distance.

In firing its engines for 20 minutes, the truck pushed the 800-tonne platform some 7km further into the sky.

The 345km-high ISS constantly drifts down as it drags through the top of the atmosphere and must be re-boosted periodically to maintain altitude.

This was the second time Jules Verne had lifted the ISS since arriving with over five tonnes of supplies in April.

The first re-boost was performed on 25 April.

The European-built Jules Verne (which has the generic name of Automated Transfer Vehicle) is expected to stay at the station until September.

At the end of its mission, it will be loaded with up to 6.5 tonnes of material no longer required by the ISS. This "rubbish" will then be taken into a controlled burn-up over the Pacific Ocean.

Cost: Total bill was 1.3bn euros (at least 4 more ATVs will be built)
Total cargo capacity: 7.6 tonnes, but first mission flew 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

Re-boost activities on the station are also performed by Russian Progress freighters and by visiting US space shuttles.

In addition, the ISS has thrusters it can use to raise its own orbit; and Jules Verne has piped over 280 kg of hydrazine propellant fuel and 530 kg of oxidiser for the purpose.

European Space Agency officials are delighted with the performance of their freighter.

With the exception of its fiery re-entry, it has now performed all its mission objectives.

ISS astronauts are reportedly using the space in Jules Verne's pressurized section as somewhere to sleep. They find it less noisy than some other areas of the station, which suffers a constant hum from its ventilation system.

It was also the space used by Yi So-yeon, the recent South Korean visitor and nanotechnology engineer, to perform experiments during her 11-day stay.

Credit: Ciprian Sufitchi (

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