June 18, 2008

Spacecraft Makes First Refueling Transfer

The European Space Agency's Jules Verne spacecraft has made history by transferring 1,788 pounds of refueling propellant to the International Space Station.

Tuesday's 30-minute transfer occurred while the two vehicles orbited the Earth at approximately 17,400 mph. The achievement makes the Jules Verne the first western spaceship to succeed in refueling another space infrastructure in orbit.

Because of the toxic and explosive characteristics of the propellant, the transfer is done through dedicated pipes located outside the pressurized structures of the Jules Verne, the ESA said. The fuel lines run from the Jules Vern, through the docking mechanism to the space station's plumbing.

We have now successfully performed all the nominal operations of Jules Verne, such as the ISS attitude control, the ISS reboost, the gas transfer of air, the water transfer, the dry cargo and now the refueling, said Herve Come, ESA's mission director at the Jules Vern's control center in Toulouse, France. Only undocking and re-entry remain, which we hope to do in September.