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PARIS (AFP) - A European robot freighter decoupled from the International Space Station (ISS), positioning itself for a fiery, suicide descent into Earth's atmosphere.
The Automated Trasfer Vehicle (ATV) is expected to burn up in the upper atmosphere over a "completely uninhabited" area of the Pacific on September 29, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
The ATV left the space station at 2129 GMT Friday, the ESA said, having taken 7.5 tonnes of equipment, water and air to the ISS crew on its maiden flight in April. It has been used as a temporary leisure centre and sleeping area over the past five months.
The freighter brought back several tonnes of refuse from the ISS.
Its engines were to use some of the remaining fuel to park the 13.5-tonne craft in a new orbit over the following three weeks.
Tethered to the ISS, the ATV carried out four operations to boost the station to a safe height of 355 kilometres (221 miles) in order to overcome residual atmospheric drag.
On August 27, it was also used to steer the ISS out of the path of potentially dangerous orbiting debris.
The first ATV -- named after the 19th-century French sci-fi pioneer Jules Verne -- was hugely esteemed by the ISS's three crew, Sergei Volkov, Oleg Kononenko and Greg Chamitoff, ESA said.
"It became one of the best places for the crew to live," said French astronaut Jean-Francois Clervoy, who advised ESA on how the freighter could be turned to human use.