Supply ship departs space station after five weeks

Feb 18, 2014 by Marcia Dunn

The International Space Station has one less capsule and a lot less trash.

A commercial cargo ship ended its five-week visit Tuesday morning. NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins used the space station's big robot arm to release the capsule, called Cygnus, as the orbiting lab sailed 260 miles (418 kilometers) above the South Atlantic.

Cygnus is filled with garbage and will burn up Wednesday when it plunges through the atmosphere, over the Pacific.

Orbital Sciences Corp. launched the capsule last month from Virginia under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA. The Cygnus delivered 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of goods, including belated Christmas gifts for the six-man crew and hundreds of ants for a student experiment.

The ants are still aboard the space station. They'll return to Earth aboard another company's cargo ship, the SpaceX Dragon.

SpaceX—or Space Exploration Technologies Corp., based in Southern California—will launch its next Dragon from Cape Canaveral on March 16 with a fresh load of supplies.

NASA is paying Orbital Sciences and SpaceX to keep the space station stocked. Russia, Japan and Europe also take turns making deliveries.

The SpaceX Dragon is the only craft capable of safely returning a pile of items, now that NASA's space shuttles are retired. The Russian Soyuz crew capsule has just enough room for three astronauts and a few odds and ends.

A handful of American companies, including SpaceX, are working to develop craft to carry crews. Until that happens, NASA must continue to buy Soyuz seats for its astronauts.

Americans have not launched from U.S. soil since the last shuttle flight in 2011. NASA expects it will be 2017 before U.S. astronauts rocket into orbit from their homeland.

Explore further: Why don't we search for different life?

5 /5 (3 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Orbital's cargo ship aims to dock at space station

Jan 12, 2014

Orbital Sciences Corporation's unmanned Cygnus spaceship is on track to berth with the International Space Station early Sunday, marking its second trip to the research outpost, the company said.

Recommended for you

Why don't we search for different life?

2 hours ago

If we really want to find life on other worlds, why do we keep looking for life based on carbon and water? Why don't we look for the stuff that's really different?

OSIRIS catches glimpse of Rosetta's shadow

2 hours ago

Several days after Rosetta's close flyby of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 14 February 2015, images taken on this day by OSIRIS, the scientific imaging system on board, have now been downlinked to Earth. ...

Kamikaze comet loses its head

3 hours ago

Like coins, most comet have both heads and tails. Occasionally, during a close passage of the Sun, a comet's head will be greatly diminished yet still retain a classic cometary outline. Rarely are we left ...

NASA spacecraft nears historic dwarf planet arrival

21 hours ago

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.