Artist's impression of ATV-2 Johannes Kepler over France
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Esa's heavy load ready for flight

The heaviest, most sophisticated space vehicle ever developed in Europe is ready to be launched into space on an Ariane 5 rocket.

The European Space Agency's (Esa) second Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV2) will carry fuel and supplies to the International Space Space.

Nicknamed Johannes Kepler, it has a total mass of more than 20 tonnes when loaded - roughly three times the size and cargo capacity of Russia's Progress space vehicles.

The vehicle will remain attached to the ISS until June, when it will be filled with waste from the station before being destroyed on a special re-entry course in the Earth's atmosphere.

  • 14 Feb 2011