Jules Verne rockets into orbit

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Europe's biggest contribution to space technology is due to go into orbit today.

The Jules Verne, an unmanned spacecraft that will be the first to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) without human control, is scheduled to take off from French Guiana at 4.03am today.

It will take fuel and food supplies to the astronauts on the ISS. In six months' time it will burn up in the atmosphere after being filled with the space station's waste.

The technology used in the Automated Transfer Vehicle may eventually be used to return samples from Mars, or other interplanetary trips too distant to be controlled from Earth.