Albert Einstein space cargo ship launches

The unmanned European space
cargo ship named Albert Einstein is
set to blast off today, carrying a
massive load of propellant,
supplies and experiments to the
International Space Station.
The ship, named after the early
1900s scientist who came up with
the theories of general and special
relativity, lifted off aboard an
Ariane 5 rocket from the European
Space Agency's spaceport in
Kourou, French Guiana, at 5:52
p.m. ET Wednesday.
The 20-tonne spacecraft is the
heaviest ever launched by Europe
and is hauling the largest load of
dry cargo ever carried by
unmanned space cargo ship to the
space station, the ESA said in a
news release.
The more than 1,400 items on
board include spare parts, water,
food, clothing, gases and
equipment for scientific
experiments.
The ship is also carrying propellant
that will be used to boost the space
station up to a higher orbit, as it
tends to fall over time due to drag
from the Earth's atmosphere.
The Albert Einstein won't arrive at
the space station until June 15,
after 10 days of orbital
manoeuvres. It will remain there
for five months, providing extra
living space for the astronauts and
boosts to the space station.
This marks the fourth unmanned
cargo ship launched by Europe. The
station has also been supplied in
recent years by similar ships from
the Russian and Japanese space
agencies. They are all designed to
burn up in the atmosphere after
use.
In the past year, a private U.S.
company, SpaceX, has also started
sending its unmanned cargo ship,
Dragon, to the station last as part
of a commercial re-supply contract
with NASA. Unlike the others,
Dragon is reusable and returns to
Earth after each mission.