The fourth of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicles, the Albert Einstein, departed the International Space Station early Tuesday, ending a 4 ½ month stay.
The ATV-4, filled with just over 4,700 pounds of station trash, departed the Russian segment Zvezda module at 4:55 a.m., EDT.
With the departure, ESA is obligated to provide a fifth and final ATV re-supply mission, currently scheduled for 2015. Initiated in 2008, the five cargo missions are fulfilling ESA's share of annual ISS operating costs.
Launched atop an Ariane 5 on June 5 from the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, the resupply capsule docked with the ISS 10 days later, delivering more than seven tons of fuel, food, water, compressed air, research gear and other supplies.
While parked at Zvezda, the ATV-4 also provided a propulsion source for raising the altitude of the ISS and dodging orbital debris.