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Astronauts in space expect cargo ships to be clean when their new shipments arrive. But how clean is clean, and how do you clean the inside of a spacecraft?

ESA’s Automated Transfer Vehicle blog editor Julien Harrod investigates how the cargo hold of Europe’s largest supply spacecraft was ensured bacteria and grime-free before launch – without getting his hands dirty.

The knowledge gained by ESA and European industry from designing, building and operating the complex ATV missions is now being applied to NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the Moon and beyond. ESA’s industrial partners are building the European Service Module, ATV’s technical successor for Orion to supply power, air and propulsion during its test flight in 2017.