CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A new European cargo ship flew up to the international space station and docked Thursday, successfully delivering food, water and clothes in its orbital debut.
The unmanned cargo ship, called Jules Verne, was operated by flight controllers at a European Space Agency center in Toulouse, France.
Jules Verne rocketed away from French Guiana on March 9 with several tons of oxygen, fuel, water and other supplies. It had to wait for shuttle Endeavour to leave the orbiting complex; Endeavour’s mission ended last week.
The crew will start unloading the spacecraft on Saturday.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin applauded the successful automated docking from Washington and said it “marks the arrival of Europe as a full-fledged space power.”
European space officials expect to launch a supply ship every two years. The ships are not reusable; once unloaded and detached from the space station, they will be directed to fiery re-entries over the Pacific. That’s what happens to the smaller Russian supply craft that regularly drop by.
The space station will need to rely on these unmanned spacecraft for supplies, tools and science experiments once NASA’s space shuttles stop flying in 2010. Besides Europe and Russia, Japan also will provide supply ships, beginning next year.
Europe’s Columbus lab arrived at the space station in February, and the first section of Japan’s Kibo lab came onboard in March.
Next week, the Russians will launch a new space station crew aboard a Soyuz rocket.