Saturday, October 19, 2013

Orbital Sciences Cygnus Cargo Craft Departs Space Station

The Orbital Sciences' Cygnus cargo craft named "G. David Low" has departed the International Space Station after spending nearly a month docked to the orbiting laboratory.

Cygnus, which is making its maiden voyage to the station, arrived at the ISS on September 29 carrying 1,300 pounds of cargo for the crew on board. It was docked to the station's Harmony Module by ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA Astronaut Karen Nyberg. Since then, the Expedition 37 crew living on station have been busy unloading cargo, and filling it instead with waste materials no longer needed on the ISS.

Cygnus Docked to the Harmony Module of the
International Space Station
credit: NASA

The Cygnus vehicle was unberthed from Harmony before it was released by the station's Canadarm2 at 12:31 p.m.

Cygnus will spend a short time in low-Earth Orbit before before it is de-orbited for a fiery demise over the Pacific Ocean.

The departure of Cygnus marks the beginning of a period of heavy traffic for the International Space Station. On October 28, just six days after today's events, the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle "Albert Einstein" will undock from the station's Zvezda Service Module, after spending more than four months at the orbiting complex.

Expedition 37 crew member Sergey Ryazanskiy
working in the Poisk Mini Research Module
credit: NASA
This will clear the way for the Soyuz TMA-09M crew; Commander Fyodor Yurchikin, Karen Nyberg and Luca Parmitano; to relocate their spacecraft from the station's Rassvet Module to the vacant docking port on Zvezda. This will allow the Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft to dock with Rassvet, just six hours after launch on November 7 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, bringing Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, JAXA Astronaut Koichi Wakata and NASA Astronaut Rick Mastracchio to the ISS.

As a result, there will be nine astronauts and cosmonauts aboard station for around four days, before Yurchikin, Nyberg and Parmitano will leave the International Space Station, their home for the past 5 months.

Before they leave, Expedition 37 commader Yurchikin will hand over command of the International Space Station to fellow Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kotov.

The trio will depart on November 11, marking the beginning of the 38th Expedition to the International Space Station.

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