- Europe's new orbital cargo ship has launched from French Guiana on a mission to resupply the space station.
The Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is the biggest and most complex spacecraft Europe has ever tried to put in orbit.
The 20-tonne unmanned freighter left the Kourou spaceport at 0403 GMT, riding atop an Ariane 5 rocket.
The spectacular night launch in the South American jungle was declared a success once the ATV had separated from its booster 66 minutes after lift-off.
The news was cheered by a huge crowd of VIPs, space agency officials and representatives of the industrial teams that have worked on the development of the ship for past 11 years.
"With the launch of the ATV, we are embarking on an extraordinary voyage," reflected European Space Agency chief, Jean Jacques Dordain.
"As of today, Europe is an essential partner of the International Space Station (ISS)."
The ATV is the largest, completely automated rendezvous and docking ship to go to the ISS. When it attaches to the platform on 3 April, it will do so without any human assistance.
The vessel will provide the largest refuelling and waste elimination capability for the ISS; and it is the only vehicle on the current timeline that will be able to de-orbit...