Massive, rocket-powered, robotic craft begins delivery mission to space station
The 13-ton cargo freighter is loaded with about 7.2 tons of supplies, including food, water, clothing, experiments and fuel for the space station, according to NASA.
A huge robot European cargo ship launched to the International Space Station today (March 23), lighting up the night sky over the northeast coast of South America to begin a five-day journey to deliver key supplies to the orbiting outpost.
The European Space Agency's third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) lifted off at 12:34 a.m. EDT (0434 GMT) atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. After a brief light show, the rocket slipped through a cloud layer and soared into orbit.
The 13-ton cargo freighter is loaded with about 7.2 tons of supplies, including food, water, clothing, experiments and fuel for the space station, according to NASA. The unmanned ATV-3 is the heaviest load of cargo ever delivered to the station by a robotic spacecraft, ESA officials said in a statement.
The vehicle is scheduled to arrive at the space station on March 28 at 6:32 p.m. EDT (2232 GMT).
"This is just the start of a very long journey which will take the Edoardo Amaldi into space for about five months," ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said after the successful launch. "It's a good start; a very good start." [Dazzling Night Launch Photos of Europe's ATV-3]