Ariane 5's brilliant ascent

Europe's Ariane 5 rocket, powered by 2.6 million pounds of thrust, rose from the launch pad in French Guiana just after sunset Wednesday, filling the sky with fire and a twisting plume of exhaust contorted by winds and illuminated by the day's last rays of sunlight.

The 17-story rocket launched the European Space Agency's fourth Automated Transfer Vehicle - nicknamed Albert Einstein - and delivered the 22-ton freighter into low Earth orbit about an hour after liftoff.

The Albert Einstein spacecraft is on a 10-day trip to the International Space Station, where it will deliver fuel and supplies.

Liftoff occurred at 2152:18 GMT (5:52:18 p.m. EDT; 6:52:18 p.m. local time). These photos were taken at the Toucan viewing site about 3 miles south of the Ariane 5's ELA-3 launch pad.

See our Mission Status Center for the latest news on the launch.

Photo credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

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