The supply ship first docked with the ISS earlier in February this year, taking up with it supplies for the station, and also laden with enough fuel to perform a series of manoeuvres to rotate and move the ISS to a higher altitude.
The 420 tonne orbiting complex now sits at more than 380km above the Earth, 40km higher up than previously, with boosts being needed every now and then to prevent the ISS from crashing back down to Earth.
The ATV is now filled with rubbish and unneeded cargo, and will perform two de-orbit burns before making a controlled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific ocean. The majority of the vehicle and cargo will burn up in the very high temperatures experienced during re-entry, around 1600C, and any residue parts will fall into the ocean below.
The next ATV is already under preparation, named after Italian physicist Eduardo Amaldi, and should launch early next year from a spaceport in French Guiana.