The unmanned cargo ship that lifted off Friday aboard the Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's spaceport in French Guiana is the third to be sent to the International Space Station by the European Space Agency. (S. Corvaja/European Space Agency)

A European rocket has launched from South America to resupply the International Space Station.

The Ariane 5 rocket took off early Friday from the European Space Agency's launch site in French Guiana.

The rocket is placing in orbit an unmanned cargo ship named the "Edoardo Amaldi" in honour of a 20th century Italian physicist regarded as one of the fathers of European spaceflight. The space vehicle is carrying about seven tonnes of cargo, including food, clothing, spare parts and propellant for the space station.

NASA says the Edoardo Amaldi is expected to remain at the station through early September. It will then undock and be commanded to deorbit and burn up during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.