Cygnus Departs Station Day Before Dragon Arrives

Cygnus Departure
The Cygnus cargo craft, with its prominent Ultra Flex solar arrays, is pictured moments after being released from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA commanded the International Space Station’s Candadarm2 robotic arm to release the Cygnus spacecraft at 9:10 a.m. EDT while the space station was flying above the south Atlantic Ocean. Earlier, ground controllers detached Cygnus from the station and maneuvered it into place for its departure.

The spacecraft spent 44 days at the station after delivering approximately 7,600 pounds of supplies and science experiments to the orbiting laboratory and its Expedition 51 and 52 crew members for Orbital ATK’s seventh NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

Dubbed the “SS John Glenn” after the iconic Mercury and shuttle astronaut and U.S. Senator from Ohio, Cygnus will remain in orbit for a week in support of the SAFFIRE experiment and the deployment of four small Nanoracks satellites before Orbital ATK flight controllers send commands June 11 to deorbit the spacecraft for its reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up over the Pacific Ocean. NASA TV will not provide a live broadcast of the Saffire experiment or the Cygnus deorbit burn and reentry, but imagery from Saffire will be posted on as it becomes available.

As Cygnus departs, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched yesterday will close in on the station for its capture by Fischer and Whitson Monday, June 5. Using the Canadarm2 robotic arm, they will grapple the SpaceX cargo spacecraft at 10 a.m. NASA TV coverage will begin at 8:30 a.m.

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