The Orbital Sciences Corp. Cygnus re-supply mission departed the International Space Station early Tuesday, ending a 24 day stay that likely marks a successful conclusion to the Dulles, Va., based company's participation in NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program.
Cygnus was unberthed from the station's U. S. segment Harmony module at 6:05 a.m., EDT, using the Canadian robot arm. Arm operators Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg maneuvered Harmony to a separation of 10 meters from the six person ISS before commanding a release at 7:31 a. m., EDT.
Cygnus resupply capsule departs ISS. Freighter was named for G. David Low,
former NASA astronaut and Orbital Sciences Corp. executive. Low died of
cancer in 2008. Photo Credit/NASA TV.
Cygnus, filled with 2,850 pounds of trash, is scheduled to destructively re-enter the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday.
"Nice work," said NASA's Mission Control as Cygnus departed.
NASA managers plan to formally assess the flight which began with a Sept. 18 lift off of the Cygnus atop an Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket from Virginia's Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport. A scheduled Sept. 22 rendezvous and berthing with the ISS was postponed to overcome a GPS navigation software mismatch between the capsule and the ISS. The delay was then extended for a Sept. 25 Russian Soyuz crew launch.
The rendezvous and berthing unfolded smoothly on Sept. 29.
NASA managers will evaluate the apparent successful mission, which could bring Orbital Sciences’ near six year COTS participation to a conclusion with the final installment of a $288 million NASA investment.
With a positive final grade, Orbital Sciences will join SpaceX as the ISS program's second U. S. commercial re-supply service.
Orbital Sciences is already preparing its first cargo delivery under a $1.9 billion, eight flight Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA's ISS program for a December lift off from Virginia.