Cygnus supply ship departs space station, begins extended mission

Wrapping up nearly four months attached to the International Space Station, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus supply ship departed the orbiting research lab Tuesday to begin an extended four-month mission for additional technology demonstrations and smallsat deployments.

NASA flight engineer Nick Hague, at the controls of the station’s robotic arm, commanded the release of the automated cargo craft at 12:15 p.m. EDT (1615 GMT) as the vehicles soared 260 miles (418 kilometers) over the Pacific Ocean.

The Cygnus spacecraft arrived in April at the space station, delivering several tons of supplies, food and experiments. After Tuesday’s departure from the ISS, the cargo craft will deploy several smallsats before plunging into the atmosphere in December, when it will burn up on re-entry with trash loaded by the station astronauts.

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