This morning, as the International Space Station glided over the eastern part of Bolivia, Cygnus was released into space. The vehicle arrived at the ISS in December with more than 7,000 pounds of cargo and after a successful mission, and left with 3,000 pounds of garbage and disposables. It’s currently floating away toward the Earth’s atmosphere, where it’s expected to burst into flames and burn to a fine ash that we’ll all wind up breathing at some point in our lives.
Built by aerospace technology company Orbital ATK, Cygnus was released on the Earth-facing side of the station at 7:26 a.m. via the Canadarm2 robotic arm, operated by ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Once it is a safe distance from the ISS, its engines will fire and push the vessel toward Earth. Cygnus is expected to burn up somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on Saturday.
In its live coverage, NASA said Cygnus departed after a “mission well done,” which, of course, is the same way the craft will cook in the atmosphere. Astronaut Scott Kelly expressed thanks to “all the folks in Houston and in Dallas” who “provided this great vehicle.” The cargo vehicle spent two months with the ISS.
Loaded with essentials like food, water, and clothing, the cargo vehicle originally traveled to the ISS atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. More exciting was the fact Cygnus brought supplies necessary for numerous experiments. Because of Cygnus, the ISS was able to conduct investigations on cell structures and bacteria, the behavior of gases and liquids in space, and the thermo-physical properties of molten steel and flame-resistant textiles.
If you want to watch the entirety of its release, NASA has got you hooked up: