Europe’s Ariane rocket has blasted off from French Guiana carrying supplies to the International Space Station.
Scientists breathed a sigh of relief as the craft reached for the skies after the first attempt had to be scratched at the last minute due to a minor technical problem.
The super-charged Ariane-5 is transporting fuel, food, clothing,oxygen and spare parts to the ISS which is in low orbit around the Earth.
The cargo vessel, dubbed “Johannes Kepler” in honour of the 17th-century German astronomer and mathematician, is the second Automatic Transfer Vehicle or ATV Europe has contributed to the ISS programme. It is also its heaviest.
After separating from the launch rocket, it will be autonomous, using its own systems for energy and guidance in liaison with the control centre in Toulouse in south west France.
Billed by the European Space Agency as a major challenge, the ATV will dock in eight days time with the ISS but without human intervention.