The European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) signed a 1.05 billion EUR contract on 13th July 2004, which allows Europe to start the initial exploitation of the International Space Station (ISS). According to the ten-year contract, the EADS-affiliated Space Transportation headquartered in Bremen, Germany, will manufacture six European multifunctional cargo spaceships, called “Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV)”, for the ESA.
The procurement of the six ATVs by ESA will be done in a stepped contractual approach. It will start with the purchase of equipment for the second ATV flight model in 2004, followed by purchase of equipment for the third ATV and the integration of the second ATV. In 2006, the purchase of equipment for the ATV flight models No. 4 to No. 7 and the assembly of ATV No. 3 to No. 7 can be effectuated upon a second successful Production Review. The first ATV, named after Jules Verne, is due for launch on an Ariane 5 from the European spaceport in Kourou, Guyana, in the second half of 2005.
The ATVs are essential in the supply of the ISS with spare parts, food, air and water for its permanent crew. They also carry experiment equipment to the ISS and remove waste and material that is no longer needed onboard. Furthermore, the ATVs are capable of pushing the ISS to a higher orbit to compensate for the slow but constant altitude loss of the Station resulting from the drag of the residual Earth atmosphere at the altitude of 400 km at which the ISS is flying.