The ATV Jules Verne has been cleared for launch for March 9 at Europe’s space port in Kourou, French Guiana.ATV resupply ship The vehicle is an unmanned European resupply ship for the International Space Station. The Russian space agency and NASA are partner’s in this endeavor.

Resupply items frequently needed on the ISS are propellant,  water, air, other payloads and various experiments.

The ATV can also provide an orbital boost to the ISS. The space station’s orbit degrades due to drag encountered in the atmosphere which gradually slows the orbital speed. The ATV will be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket ; together, both the ATV and the launcher weigh 460 tons.

Ariane 5

Ariane 5 (

 This is the first flight of the ATV after many delays. Designed to compliment the Progress spacecraft, it has 3x the capacity of Progress. It can carry bulk liquids in a pressurized environment.

The ATV itself weighs nearly 21 metric tons and has a cargo capacity of 9 metric tons. It is a successor to the Hermes mini-shuttle, similar to the U.S. proposed Dyna-Soar X20. Development of the Hermes was cancelled in 1993.

The spacecraft will be put into orbit at 186 miles (300km) above the Earth. The ATV will be an important resource to carry cargo into space especially since the space shuttle will soon be retired by NASA. Missions to resupply the ISS are planned for every 17 months.

The ATV is named after Jules Verne (1828 – 1905), a French author who was a pioneer in the development of science fiction stories. He authored Journey to the Center of the Earth; Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea;  and, Around the World in Eighty Days .