Thursday, June 23, 2016

US cargo ship completes 5th space station resupply mission

A U.S. commercial cargo ship filled with trash from the International Space Station on Wednesday reentered Earth's atmosphere and burned up as planned over the Pacific Ocean.

The safe but destructive reentry marked the successful completion of the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft's fifth mission to resupply the orbiting laboratory, said Orbital ATK, one of the space cargo delivery companies hired by U.S. space agency NASA.

The space freighter was loaded with about 4,087 pounds (1,854 kilograms) of items for disposal, according to the company.

Cygnus was released from the space station last week after an 81-day stay and has since been busy conducting science activities including a fire experiment and deploying nanosatellites. This was the first time Cygnus has been used as an in-orbit research platform.

The fire experiment, called Saffire-I, involved intentionally burning materials in the Cygnus pressurized cargo module to study the behavior of large scale fires in microgravity.

Saffire-I and future Saffire experiments could help technologies and materials that will make deep space exploration spacecraft safer for astronauts, NASA and Orbital ATK said.

Cygnus was launched to the space station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, aboard an Atlas V rocket back in March.

Its next cargo mission, set for later this summer, will use the company's own Antares rocket and the launch will occur at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

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