Spacecraft full of supplies on way to International Space Station

June 6, 2013 at 4:08 PM

PARIS, June 6 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency says a giant robotic freighter launched on a trip to the International Space Station is the heaviest it has ever put into orbit.

The Automated Transfer Vehicle, dubbed Albert Einstein, is carrying 6.6 tons of food, water, equipment and fuel for the orbiting laboratory, a release from ESA's Paris headquarters reported Thursday.

Launched from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket at 1:52 p.m. EDT Wednesday, the ATV-4 is in a parking orbit at an altitude of 160 miles, where it has deployed power-generating solar wings and an antenna.

For the next 10 days, the unmanned spacecraft will perform checks and maneuvers that will eventually place it in the vicinity of the space station at about 250 miles above the Earth in preparation for an automated docking on July 15, the ESA said.

The Albert Einstein will spend more than four months docked to the station's Zvezda module as astronauts gradually unload its tons of supplies.

Filled with trash from the station, it will then be released toward Earth where it will burn up in the atmosphere, the ESA said.

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