The Albert Einstein space cargo ship, which had been docked for months at the International Space Station, ended its mission Saturday when it disintegrated after entering Earth's atmosphere over an uninhabited area of the South Pacific, the European Space Agency said.

The robotic resupply vehicle, the fourth of its kind that ESA has sent to the ISS, began its maneuver on Monday, when it was cast off from the station where it had arrived on June 15.

After separating from the ISS, it made a series of "delicate maneuvers" so its disintegration could be observed by the astronauts in order to obtain unique data about the phenomenon of reentering Earth's atmosphere.

The space cargo vehicle was launched June 5 on an Ariane 5 rocket from the space center at Kourou, French Guiana, carrying a record payload of 7 tons of material for the ISS.

That plus the space freighter's weight brought the total to 20.2 tons, making it the heaviest object ever rocketed into space.

The vehicle set another record on its way back to Earth - for the biggest load of trash ever carried in space.

ESA plans to launch its next space vehicle, named after Belgian physicist George Lemaitre, to the ISS in May next year. EFE