European cargo freighter to undock from ISS

Oct 25, 2013

Europe's heaviest-ever cargo carrier to the International Space Station is set to undock on Monday after completing its mission, according to a European Space Agency (ESA) blog.

After separating from the ISS at 0859 GMT, the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) will tumble back towards Earth and burn up when it hits the atmosphere over an uninhabited part of the Pacific Ocean on November 2.

ESA's fourth ATV, dubbed Albert Einstein, was rocketed into space from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on June 5 and docked with the ISS ten days later.

It ferried a record cargo of 6.6 tonnes to the ISS—food, fuel, water, oxygen, science experiments and special treats for the orbiting crew.

At nearly 20.2 tonnes, ESA's penultimate cargo delivery to the ISS was the heaviest spacecraft ever launched by an Ariane rocket.

The unmanned vessel is the size of a double-decker bus—10 metres (33 feet) long and 4.5 metres (15 feet) in diameter.

One of its key functions was to boost the ISS, constantly falling towards Earth due to atmospheric resistance, back into a higher orbit.

It will finally leave the ISS filled with about six tonnes of garbage and human waste that will burn up with it.

The hatch linking the ATV to the ISS was closed on Friday, said the blog.

Explore further: NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

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