Friday, February 19, 2016

Cygnus Cargo Craft Departs International Space Station

Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo ship has departed the International Space Station after a successful 72 day mission to resupply the orbiting laboratory.

Having been unberthed from the Unity Module of the complex earlier in the day, Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and Flight Engineer Tim Kopra used the station's 57-foot robotic arm to release the unmanned Cygnus at 12:26 p.m. GMT as the two vehicles flew 400 kilometers over Bolivia. This positioned Cygnus for a fiery re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on Saturday.
Cygnus departs the International Space Station(File photo)
credit: NASA
On its fourth mission to resupply the space station, the vehicle nicknamed "S.S. Deke Slayton II" launched atop an Atlas V rocket carrying over 3,500 kilograms of cargo from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral in Florida on December 6.

Among the cargo which served the Expedition 45/46 crews was a new life sciences facility and a micro-satellite deployer, as well as food and other crew provisions.

Today's departure of Deke Slayton II also marks the beginning of a busy period of traffic from visiting vehicles to and from the station. 

On March 1 the year-long mission to the ISS conducted by Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will come to an end as the pair undock their Soyuz TMA-18M from the Poisk module on the Russian segment of the International Space Station alongside Sergey Volkov.
Kelly and Kornienko have been living aboard the station since their arrival on March 28 2015. By the time they return to Earth they will have spent 340 days in space and traveled over 140 million miles.

The departure of Kelly, Kornienko and Volkov will clear the way for the arrival of the next Soyuz to bring three new crew members to the International Space Station. Cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka, Alexey Ovchinin and astronaut Jeff Williams will dock their Soyuz TMA-20M to the vacant docking port on Poisk on March 19. This will be followed just three days later by the launch of the next Cygnus vehicle on it's fifth flight to the station.

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