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Europe's Automated Cargo Shuttle Docks With Space Station

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the drones-what-can't-they-do dept.

Space 108

An anonymous reader writes "A successful docking of the Automated Transfer Vehicle dubbed 'Jules Verne' occurred earlier this week. The first of its kind, the crewless ship reached orbit and lightly touched up against the international space station on Thursday. By now astronauts on the ISS will have opened its doors and begun air circulation in preparation of offloading the nearly 7.5 tons of fuel, oxygen, food, clothing and equipment they need to survive. The EU Space Agency sees this as a historic journey for the program: 'The Jules Verne, named after the visionary French science fiction author, is the first of a new class of station supply ships called Automatic Transfer Vehicles. The craft was built by the nations of the European Space Agency as one of Europe's major contributions to the international station. "The docking of the A.T.V. is a new and spectacular step in the demonstration of European capabilities on the international scene of space exploration," said Jean-Jacques Dordain, director general of the European Space Agency.'"

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The important question (3, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977510)

Which would win in a fight? The European robot transport or the Canadian robot manipulator?

Re:The important question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977576)

Depends on how much of a run-up is allowed, and whether "winning" is defined by surviving or by destroying the opponent. Obviously, the transport could just ram the manipulator at high speed.

Re:The important question (0, Offtopic)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977610)

Simple, neither, Chuck Norris would. Chuck Norris wins everything.

Re:The important question (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977880)

Chuck Norris is SO 2007.

Re:The important question (0, Offtopic)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977926)

The meme must live on! Do your duty to prevent this meme from going extinct today!

Re:The important question (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978864)

you are retarded.

Re:The important question (0, Offtopic)

jlowery (47102) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978380)

Chuck Norris will only be passe when he's damn well decided it's time. Which is never.

Re:The important question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978388)

For a moment I read that as

Chuck Norris is ISO 2007.

Re:The important question (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978790)

The question of Chuck Norris's ISO compliance simply never comes up... the standards bodies are afraid they would become just that if they dared to raise the issue.

Re:The important question (1)

Tacticus.v1 (1102137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978494)

i think you mean Gordon freeman

Crowbar > roundhouse kick

Re:The important question (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977624)

If you said either, you're wrong. The correct answer was Chuck Norris.

Re:The important question (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977884)

yeah? go suck him.

Re:The important question (2, Funny)

AikonMGB (1013995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977626)

The Canadian robot manipulators! We've got tons of them! The arms on the space shuttles, the twin-armed contraption on the space station, numerous smaller manipulators on many rovers...

It's too bad any new ones won't be Canadian anymore with MDA selling out =( Not that MDA Space Missions / MD Robotics / Dynacs / SPAR were "all Canadian" to start with, but at least it had that "built here!" feeling to it.

Aikon-

Re:The important question (1)

KillerLoop (202131) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978124)

Get the Canadian robot manipulators to build Canadian robot manipulators and you might take on the universe!

Re:The important question (1)

neomunk (913773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979678)

Heh, actually the plan would be complete by having Canadian Robot Overlords both being welcomed by slashdotters and overseeing the Canadian Robot Manipulator hoards' reproduction/taking over the universe/???/profit functions.

See, it's like a car, you have to have an ECM (in this case, the Canadian Robot Overlords) to coordinate the rest of the complex machinery. But that kind of thing is only likely in Soviet Russia, where Canadians make fun of YOU.

It's not a first post, and there's no goatse, but nonetheless I think I just won slashdot. I hope I unlocked some minigames or something.

Re:The important question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22982320)

There are very big chance that the sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates will be blocked by the Canadian Government. I have heard its 50/50

Re:The important question (2, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977640)

Which would win in a fight? The European robot transport or the Canadian robot manipulator?
I would have thought the more relevant question would be:
One-use European robot transport vs Russian Soyuz spacecraft

IIRC, so far the Russians have been lifting the majority of supplies to the station, because the Shuttle hasn't been going up regularly. Not to mention they've been getting paid but the USA for the privilege.

Re:The important question (5, Informative)

2Y9D57 (988210) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978728)

The Russians have been delivering supplies with the Progress spacecraft. Only people travel in Soyuz.

Re:The important question (4, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980960)

Progress is more or less Soyuz without a re-entry system. Those russkies believe in reusable systems - reusability of the design rather than idiotic reusability of the vehicle.

details [amsat.org]

Re:The important question (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982976)

One-use European robot transport vs Russian Soyuz spacecraft
The russians send cargo in progress [wikipedia.org] , which is a one-time use spacecarft as well.
Regarding comparing the two, the same article states:

It [the ATV] is able to carry up to 9 tonnes of cargo into space, roughly three times as much as the Progress, and will be launched every 12-18 months by an Ariane 5 rocket.

From orbit, it's the only way to be sure (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977514)

First post, scripted from orbit!
Captcha: eureka

And on to the stars! (5, Insightful)

Iamthecheese (1264298) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977530)

The science is done; between this and automatic capture and exploitation of asteroids is only a matter of scale and engineering.

Re:And on to the stars! (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977820)

between this and automatic capture and exploitation of asteroids is only a matter of scale and engineering.
.. and will.

Remember, NASA and the vast majority of the space community are still stuck in the von Braun vision: station, shuttle, Moon, Mars.

Re:And on to the stars! (5, Insightful)

M1FCJ (586251) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978092)

If only...

If NASA followed von Braun's strategy, by now we would have a permanent moon base already. Instead NASA went for a big-bang project, after initial success, scaled it down very quickly and abandoned everything for a flawed plan and left us with a shuttle which would truck stuff to nowhere. Now they have a place to go (ISS) but they are canceling the shuttle with no spacecraft to replace it. I wouldn't be this bitter at least they had something replacing it.

Europeans (inc. Russia) will have to step up and replace NASA when they completely abandon ISS in a couple of years and ATV is a step in this. The Chinese and Indians might come aboard pretty soon as well. The world will not need USA for space exploration any more and NASA's current plans are doomed with the budget cuts and everything - all it needs is a pretty failure in one of the first flights and that's it, USA won't have access to human spaceflight anymore - they hardly succeed with their current fleet of vehicles.

Re:And on to the stars! (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978194)

vision != reality.

Even if NASA wasn't a bureaucratic mess and got the funding it needed, all we'd have is "science" on Mars.

Does it really make sense to drag yourself out of a gravity well only to throw yourself into another?

Re:And on to the stars! (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981798)

Does it really make sense to drag yourself out of a gravity well only to throw yourself into another?

Sometimes I think it doesn't make sense to drag myself out of bed in the morning only to fall back into it at night.

However, we are human beings, and, as the saying goes, we are all lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.

Re:And on to the stars! (3, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982210)

...left us with a shuttle which would truck stuff to nowhere. Now they have a place to go (ISS) but they are canceling the shuttle with no spacecraft to replace it.
The trouble with the STS is that its big selling point was as a shuttle to a future International Space Station. By the same token, the ISS' big selling point was that it could be built, manned, and supplied with the STS. They're both lackluster designs limited to a ridiculous LEO slot that's outlandishly costly to maintain. Really, they're BOTH white elephants.

Re:And on to the stars! (3, Informative)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982688)

The ESA has a low budget compared to the NASA. The major difference is that they do things slowly and step by step. They do one big project (like the ATV development), but a lot of research and engineering is done in smaller missions. And they try to use platforms. For example the Venus Express probe reused the design of Mars Express. They also have a lot "get things cheaper" projects. And they cancelled many expensive projects, which was seen as a set back for Europe at that time. For example the Hermes project. The Ariane 5 launcher was designed to carry Hermes, but as Hermes never got build Ariane became the work horse of Arianespace. So in this point they just got lucky.

You couldn't be more wrong. (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22986180)

If NASA followed von Braun's strategy, by now we would have a permanent moon base already. Instead NASA went for a big-bang project

Um, no. NASA was ordered to do the big bang project by the Kennedy and subsequent Administrations. NASA originally planned to go to the moon possibly sometime in the 70's, maybe.
 
 

after initial success, scaled it down very quickly

Um, no. Of the landing sequence NASA planned (through Apollo 20), two flights (what would have been 15 and 19) were cut in 1967 and the the third (what would have been 17) in early 1969 - before any landings had occurred.
 
There are no gaps in the as-flown sequence because NASA renumbered the remaining missions. The cuts occurred as long lead items were being procured and before any serious mission planning was done.
 
 

and abandoned everything for a flawed plan and left us with a shuttle which would truck stuff to nowhere.

Um, no. When asked for a post-Apollo roadmap and budget, despite the steep budget cuts of 1967-69, NASA asked for the whole [expensive] ball of wax - a Shuttle, a Station, and serious seed money for a permanent lunar base and a Mars expedition. When the Administration made it clear to NASA just how limited their budget was going to be, they made the only natural choice - to ask for funding for the first step of Von Braun Vision, a shuttle. (The grandparent has the shuttle-station order reversed.) NASA has remained hopeful essentially ever since that the blank check years would return - a misbegotten pipe dream that continually badly warped NASA planning.
 
It surprises many people to learn that the basic contracts for the Shuttle were signed on July 21, 1969 - while Apollo 11 was on the moon, the death warrant for the Apollo program had already been signed (Saturn V production having been capped two years previously by Congress) and its successor was being born.

Re:And on to the stars! (1)

HappyDrgn (142428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22986576)

Now they have a place to go (ISS) but they are canceling the shuttle with no spacecraft to replace it. I wouldn't be this bitter at least they had something replacing it.
 
Um... take a look at the Orion spacecraft. This will be the replacement for the shuttle program. The shuttle program was started to help build and travel to the ISS. Now with the ISS out of the way NASA will realign for missions to the moon and mars, including plans for this moon base you seem to want. In fact test are underway in Antarctica for prototypes of habitats for the moon base. Orion (along with some very neat robotics) is what's planned to get us there. We will have a five year gap between the end of life for the shuttle program and first launch of the Orion. By 2020 NASA plans to return to the moon. You can see some details on wikipedia, along with about a dozen shows on discovery channel about this new spacecraft.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

As an aside, I believe you're right on one point. Eventually NASA will no longer have such a strong role in space. For that matter I believe your scope is off as neither the ESA or the Russian Federal Space Program can hang around much longer at their current support levels and efficiency. I'd be shocked though if China ever does anything more than put up some more advanced spy sats. Private enterprise will eventually fill the gaps with more efficiency and innovation we just don't see out of these federal programs. While the federal programs will be stripped down and merged into the military of their respective governments.

Re:And on to the stars! (2, Interesting)

interiot (50685) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977862)

Asteroids come with retroreflectors preinstalled [esa.int] ? Asteroids provide such a predictable environment that the exact same approach can be rehearsed countless times in a lab beforehand?

IMHO, the DARPA Urban Grand Challenge moved the science closer to unpredictable real-world mining than this. (though admittedly, both relied heavily on laser rangefinders)

Re:And on to the stars! (1)

Salsaman (141471) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981764)

I guess you could have a probe which launched a retroreflector first at the asteriod. Then once this had impacted, the rest of the vehicle could lock on to this to do a more controlled approach.

Re:And on to the stars! (-1, Troll)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978400)

I realise you're joking, of course, because only an imbecile could think that a low-earth orbit rendezvous between the ATV and ISS does anything to change "asteroid mining"'s status from "science fiction".

Re:And on to the stars! (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979374)

we only get anywhere step by step, inch by inch.

Asteroid mining is still some way off, but its a little bit closer now.

Re:And on to the stars! (1)

call-me-kenneth (1249496) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980442)

Well, yeah, but by that logic we're a step closer to manned bases on Venus or faster-than-light travel. Those things were SF before ATV and they're SF now (and I maintain they will always be SF, but that's beside the point.) Likewise, asteroid mining is SF last week, this week, and next week. (In that case though it's not only the extreme technological difficulty of the task, it's that the whole process is utterly futile. If there were a solid gold asteroid it would still never be economic to go mine it.) As someone else has said, when there are permanent human settlements in the middle of the Gobi Desert,... let's talk about manned spaceflight.

Re:And on to the stars! (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978406)

Yeah. Never mind the fact that asteroids are typically tumbling, don't come equipped with docking system, and don't provide a nice homing beacon and control assistance.

Video? (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977534)

I'd have enjoyed (hopefully) watching that on video. Maybe I'm a big kid? I don't know, I just really like watching that sort of stuff. Anyone find video of it?

Re:Video? (2, Funny)

Breakfast Pants (323698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977642)

As always, it can be found on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AdFA6WWJ7E [youtube.com]

Parent link is Rick Roll Muppets Version (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977722)

Rick Roll - the new MyMiniCity. Gah!

Re:Video? (2, Insightful)

bitserf (756357) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977828)

I HATE MY LIFE

Re:Video? (1)

Typoboy (61087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978424)

Get Help! [joyoftech.com]

Re:Video? (1)

neomunk (913773) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979816)

INSIGHTFUL! (literal)LOL I've wanted to be able to moderate moderations before, but that's the funniest thing I've seen on slashdot in weeks.

RICKROLL NEWYORK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977996)

Since we all just got Rick Rolled, why not Rick Roll someone else, why not Rick Roll the ENTIRE STATE OF NEW YORK! Go here: http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/nym/fan_forum/singalong_vote_form.jsp [mlb.com] Put in "Never Gonna Give You Up - Rick Astley" into the other query. Then put 11215 into the zip code query. We can all do it if we try!

Re:Video? (1)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978050)

Take your lame memes back to ebaumsworld.

Re:Video? (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978184)

Take your lame memes back to ebaumsworld.


In Soviet Russia, lame memes take *YOU* back to ebaumsworld!

Re:Video? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978408)

In Soviet Russia, lame memes take *YOU* back
yes, but automatically! without cast or crew!

Mod parent +1 RickTroll (1)

Digestromath (1190577) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978446)

Seriously now... can we move onto a new meme already?

Re:Video? (1)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977656)

Am I the only one who hears they opening theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey [youtube.com] * playing when I envision that video?

*--Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss [wikipedia.org]

Re:Video? (1)

Two9A (866100) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979052)

Nice try, but your sibling poster already did the Rickroll.

This is why I've put YouTube in my firewall's blacklist. Nothing useful can come of that site.

Re:Video? (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980250)

In this case it actually wasn't a Rickroll. It actually is the opening of 2001.

Re:Video? (4, Funny)

Spacejock (727523) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977804)

It's still in post-production - they're busy adding a 'Blue Danube' soundtrack.

Re:Video? (3, Informative)

kristofme (791986) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978604)

BBC had a video of this as soon as it happened: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7328816.stm [bbc.co.uk] They also have a real-time visualization of where the two modules are, so people can prepare for taking pictures of it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7330925.stm [bbc.co.uk]

The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (1)

S3D (745318) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977548)

Was not Soviet Progress [wikipedia.org] a first crewless freighter ?

I for one, (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977586)

I for one, welcome our automatic space delivery overlords.

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (2, Interesting)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977674)

The Progress isn't even the first automated Soviet freighter, so, no, this is far from the first automated transport spacecraft. They even used some Russian parts. Typical ESA over-statement (or outright lie). Just the latest in a long line - "first ion thruster" (although theirs was a Russian design that had been in use for 20+years) and NASA and some commercial entities has also used them), "first 3-axis stabilized spacecraft to be operated without any gyro" (although numerous US missions have used gyroless control dating back close to 50 years), etc.

        Completely unnecessary in this case, because they had a legitimate claim to an accomplishment this time. Their terminal guidance and overall control appeared to have been *far* superior to the typical Soviet system. Much smoother and neater and apparently much finer control.
        Brett

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (5, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977874)

RTA: "Only Russia has previously achieved a successful automated docking in space," Dr. Griffin said in a statement.

Don't confuse the /. crowd with facts, will you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978274)

Their little heads will spin an explode, and we can't let this happen.

Why no gyros? (2, Interesting)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978004)

Why no gyro? Gyros don't need any fuel for attitude control, just solar power. What advantage does not having gyros give you?

Re:Why no gyros? (1)

Ruie (30480) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978038)

Gyros need to be heavy - eliminating them saves mass.

Re:Why no gyros? (1)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978196)

Directional-control gyros do -- but not nav gyros. There are small versions weighing well under 1kg, for use in model helicopters etc.

Re:Why no gyros? (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978362)

Ah, yes, I forgot, you need MASS to react against. Which makes sense for a cargo ship.

Dumb question (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979200)

if you do not use gyros, then you have to use the thrusters. That means fuel. Worse, it WILL limit the lifetime. Of course, for ATV, it is probably not needed (limited lifetime in the firstplace, gyros on the space station), but overall, it would seem that directional gyros would more sense for a long lasting sats (or perhaps ion drive thrusters).

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (2, Informative)

Stephen Samuel (106962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978048)

..... Their terminal guidance and overall control appeared to have been *far* superior to the typical Soviet system. Much smoother and neater and apparently much finer control.
Perhaps this is what they were talking about -- As I remember it, the final approach of Progress was far from automated. If this new system is mostly or fully automated, then it does qualify for a first...

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (5, Informative)

dddno (743682) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978338)

Kindly separate what some inaccurate media summary says and what the ESA itself states. Where exactly does ESA claim to have "the first automated transport spacecraft?". They say it is the first of its kind, i.e. one that navigates and docks fully automatically, which is neither a lie nor an overstatement. And quoting from the Smart-1 (probe with ion drive) site:

This was only the second time that ion propulsion has been used as a mission's primary propulsion system ...

I haven't bothered checking your "first 3-axis stabilized spacecraft to be operated without any gyro" example but frankly I'm sure I'd not find an "outright lie" here or even a overstatement either.

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (1)

ivano (584883) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978922)

Don't you have a "save the british pound" rally or something to go to?

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22979088)

Typical ESA over-statement (or outright lie).
Depends on how you interpret the meaning of the word "first of its kind". It is definitely not the first automated space craft, you are right. But this is probably not what was meant. In fact, the words "first of its kind do not even appear in the NY Times article, it is the words of the "anonymous reader" who submitted this to Slashdot.

The New York Times article states:
"[It] is the first of a new class of station supply ships called Automatic Transfer Vehicles"

And it definitely is a new class of suplly ships.

You should not bash an organization based on the wording of an anonymous Slashdot submission of an article which does not even contain this phrase.

Re:The first of its kind, the crewless ship... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977678)

Yes, and the first Progress flight was over 30 years ago! This "first in its kind" talk cracks me up.

MOD Parent up please (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979006)

Progress IS the first of its ind. The ATV is roughly a large AND newer copy of it. Of course, that is because EU paid russia for the rights to see their tech and then figure out how to improve upon it based on 30+years of tech advancement.

I am happy to see EU getting more into space; ariane, vegas, a number of planetary probes, the modules used on the shuttle (of which that forms the ATV), and now the ATV. But USSR/Russia is the one that deserves the credit for first creating this. In fact, I am hoping that Spacex will consider doing something similar. The reason is all dockings will require an external arm or manual intervention. But I think that the ability to have 2 crafts hook up will be important for a tanker to refuel large sats in the future. Likewise, to auto repair future items such as the new space telescope, will require this.

Re:MOD Parent up please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22983684)

But USSR/Russia is the one that deserves the credit for first creating this


The ESA does not claim to be the first one. Please read the article instead of the incorrect summary before posting.
kbyethx

ATV? (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977554)

That's already in use! Why not UTV = Unmanned Transfer Vehicle?

Re:ATV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977630)

Any 3 letter acronym you can come up with has already been used. Multiple times.

Re:ATV? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977898)

And at least once for porn.

Re:ATV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978190)

That's already in use! Why not UTV = Unmanned Transfer Vehicle?

Because if you've been unmanned, your "vehicle" won't be transferring a whole lot.

Geez -- captcha is "sterile" -- coincidence? -- not hardly.

ck, ck, ck, ck -- he said "hardly".

Re:ATV? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979588)

Ulster TeleVision [wikipedia.org] , among other things [wikipedia.org] .

Face it, every reasonable length acronym has been used at least once by now

Re:ATV? (1)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981762)

Unmanned and autonomous mean different things. Unmanned can be remote controlled, autonomous must be completely self contained. In other words, autonomous is a subset of unmanned.

Why not just add sections on? (1)

sir_montag (937262) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977574)

Why not add sections on as they are put into orbit instead of discarding them to burn up? Enlarging the International Space Station would be better, right?

Or at least accumulate a useful scrap yard (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977738)

With so much energy invested in boosting the transport into orbit, you'd think that they'd want to hold onto the materials once up there. They'd be very valuable in due course.

Unfortunately the ISS is in too low an orbit for that, ie. a scrap yard at that low altitude would reenter pretty soon. The space station itself needs to be reboosted up periodically (a really daft design decision).

There's no reason why the transport couldn't boost itself much further out once it has delivered its cargo though. The energy cost isn't large, and there's no time constraint so even ion jets could be used.

Re:Or at least accumulate a useful scrap yard (4, Informative)

demallien2 (991621) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977906)

They actually use the transport to remove all of their rubbish. They can't just throw waste outside, that would present yet another orbital risk. So, they load everything into the supply module (Progress, ATV, or the new Japanese HTV which should get it's first launch next year), and then the supply module burns its engines to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and burning up.

Re:Or at least accumulate a useful scrap yard (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978086)

Yah, that's damn expensive trash bag.

Re:Or at least accumulate a useful scrap yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978804)

Can't they just use some kind of slingshot and catapult rubbish back towards Earth? It'll burn up in a few minutes.

Re:Or at least accumulate a useful scrap yard (1)

fredrikj (629833) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978902)

In theory, waste can be used as projectiles for a mass driver. Ejecting the waste backwards at high velocity would simultaneously accelerate the station (to help maintain orbit) and decelerate the waste (causing it to fall back to Earth). In practice, this is probably rather inefficient.

Re:Why not just add sections on? (2, Informative)

sveinb (305718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977856)

According to Wikipedia, it is designed with room for a docking port at the other end.

Re:Why not just add sections on? (1)

dartmongrel (855947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977892)

because its not that easy to engineer something that doubles for a transport vehicle AND component of a space station. Although that would be cool.

Original manuscripts on board? (2, Insightful)

SmokeSerpent (106200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977632)

I guess they were pretty freakin confident that this thing wouldn't blow up or get lost. Ballsy much?

7.5 Tons (3, Funny)

cwraig (861625) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977698)

They must be some strong astronauts to carry all that in zero gravity

Re:7.5 Tons (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979758)

You gotta be careful tho - cause even though the objects may be weightless, they still have the same inertia (ie. you can be crushed by a weightless object, if it's moving).

Thursday ? (2, Interesting)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977768)

I gotta wonder.. If the US had done this, would we be reading about this on Thursday or Saturday ?

Re:Thursday ? (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979106)

Keep in mind that it is up to the /. editors to pick what interests THEM. As such, there is a bit of a built-in bias about what appears here. 10 years ago, on slashdot, this would have been posted right away. But I have noticed that a number of space articles tend to be posted later and later. I suspect that this has little to do with EU, and a lot more to do with less interest in space by younger folks. Hopefully, with spacex, bigelow, and even virgin, we will see this passion about space rekindled again.

If not, it will probably be re-kindled in about 6-7 years, when china puts a man on the moon, with the obvious intention of building a base there. Just as sputnik spurred America, I think that the realization that China has about 1.5 times the number of ppl working on their space program of what America had in total during the Apollo program will cause nations to re-think their priorities, and how to work together.

old tech? (0, Troll)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977864)

Docking of crew-less vehicles with orbital outposts was first done by the Russians a few decades ago. It's sad that my favorite space agency is only pulling off this kind of feat this late!

Russia-2, USA-1 and Europe-0.

Full Article (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22977942)

The full article doesn't say that this is a first. In fact, it contains the following sentence.

Only Russia has previously achieved a successful automated docking in space, Dr. Griffin said in a statement.

I wonder what kind of system the Russians were using and are still using? It took this long for others to catch up and, from the article once again, they had to use GPS and other systems. I'm sure the Russians had it much simpler.

Re:Full Article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978008)

His statement was rephrased, because the press could not make sense of what he said:

"In Soviet Russia, crewless ships dock YOU!"

BTW, "TFA" doesn't really mean The full article .

Re:old tech? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22978026)

Doh,

You certainly need to find out who's actually behind much of the success of U.S. space exploration,
start with these

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helmut_Gr [wikipedia.org] öttrup

Just to mention two and leaving out too many to list here. Make sure you understand why von Braun
was so important to NASA and U.S space race with Russians, even though he had Nazi background.

Many of the great engineers of 19th and 20th century came from Germany and from Europe in general
as in many sciences you stand on the shoulders of your predeceding scientists. U.S and U.S.S.R. success
in space exploration just proves that NASA scientists have been the lucky guy to be able to do that too.

Europe has had long history and lots of great scientists along the centuries, but much of the capability to
implement was lacking because it was first scattered most of the time small kingdoms, then smallish national
countries with disagreeing politics.

EU which has grown past decades is changing all that now. You will see a lot better capability to
implement/deploy/execute (choose the words you prefer, please) the brainpower and capability there
certainly have been available all the time.

ac

ps. I wish you get it that I don't have Nazi nor any nationalist group symphaties here.

Space Shuttle (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22977888)

Maybe we don't need people making dangerous supply runs in the Space Shuttle.

Why still dock front on ? (4, Interesting)

Davemania (580154) | more than 6 years ago | (#22978288)

With the Russian accident in mind, why do they still dock the same way ? From what i've read, a collision could, due to the size of the capsule could be catastrophic. Couldn't they make the capsule approach the space station in a parrallel course rather than heads on, than use the robotic arms or something equivalent to pull the capsule in ? of couse that would mean that they would have to redesign the capsule.

Re:Why still dock front on ? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979242)

All of the future crafts with hook-ups on the American side will do just that. But that requires that the craft contain an arm. So that means that other dockable crafts will have to carry an arm. For example, if Bigelow choses to use the American approach, they will require an arm of some length (perhaps just long enough to reach the end of one BA-330). While it makes sense to use it on the ISS (cheap and all parts there already), it really does not make sense for other systems. Too expensive, though you could argue that the arm helps to prevent doing loads of human space walks. As to the possibility of a crash, well, the local (cosmo|astro)nauts has the ability to override the sat and either control it, or stop the docking. And yes, they do watch it.

Re:Why still dock front on ? (4, Informative)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979672)

There is no such thing as a "parallel course" in orbit.

Read Bate, Mueller, & White, "Fundamentals of Astrodynamics", (Dover Books). (Caution: Math required.)

Imagine two coplanar circular rings, of very slightly different diameter, with a common center. They're concentric. Tilt one slightly with respect to the other, retaining the common centering. The rings now cross at two diametrically opposed points.

Those rings represent non-coplanar orbits. Objects traveling along the two orbits appear to be in parallel course at widest separation, then they start coming together, collide, and start moving apart again.

The cheap way to do rendezvous is get the two spacecraft onto the SAME orbit, with some separation, and then GRADUALLY maneuver one of them to bring it closer. It is extremely touchy work. (This is why Project Gemini spent so much time learning how to rendezvous the Gemini spacecraft with the Agena target: they had to be able to do rendezvous to do the Apollo moon landings.)

Read "Carrying the Fire", by Mike Collins, for some interesting insight into the problem. (Mike Collins was Apollo XI Command Module Pilot.)

Re:Why still dock front on ? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22981262)

Don't be such a pedant. There's absolutely no reason why you can't fly a vehicle like the ATV on a near-miss course, and then do precisely what the grandparent suggested. As to why they do it one way or another, who knows, I'm not a rocket scientist, but neither are you.

I'm sure the real ones have their reasons, probably having to do with the complexity of catching a passing cargo spaceship with the manipulator arm, or the mechanical stresses involved, or what-not. The two craft approach each other pretty slowly (centimeters per second), so the risk is probably minimal (despite all the exaggerated claims about how difficult an automated docking is--not with today's technology, as the ATV so aptly proves by getting it right on the first run), and they've got an abort button if something looks like it's going to go wrong.

Re:Why still dock front on ? (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22986316)

In the realm of orbital maneuvre, it doesn't really matter where you approach it from. They're both travelling at almost exactly the same speed. It's best to just consider them as two floating objects in the vastness of space. The approach velocity is extremely small either way. Capturing the capsule with a robotic arm might reduce the risk of catastrophic collision, which is probably quite small anyway. But that would probably open up a whole new bag of potential failure.

Thats an expensive, and not very efficient... (3, Funny)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22979156)

...toilet. Beware of the brown rain.

Seems to me they could use human waste propulsion to offset atmospheric drag, so long as its directed at the earth.
put the waste under pressure and release it in a directed manner.

Ok, so that's a shitty idea.
 
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