The first of the five ATVs to be flown docked with the ISS in April. ESA carried out, under its general study programme in 2004, research on a “Larger Cargo Return Spacecraft” and from the third quarter of that year a cargo return vehicle concept called CARV. It would be able to bring back “hundreds of kilograms”.
The ATV consists of a propulsion module and a carrier section. The rentry capsule would replace the carrier. The CARV’s return vehicle would use technology from ESA’s 1998 Atmospheric Re-entry Demonstrator (ARD) capsule.
The CARV proposal was made public in the 17 July joint heads of agency statement. It said:
“ESA plans for an Automated Transfer Vehicle-Advanced Return Vehicle system for downmass from the ISS,” and the agency told Flight, “it is a crucial part of the proposal to the [member states’ space ministers’] meeting in November”.
ESA’s head of the future transportation and infrastructure division, Marco Caporicci, told Flight in 2004 that CARV would be compatible with the space station’s wider-diameter US docking port, allowing larger items to be loaded and unloaded.
Caporicci also expected a 2010 in-service date for CARV if it had been approved in 2006, suggesting a 2013 start of operations assuming its approval at this November’s ministerial meeting.