The Canadarm2 released Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial craft at 7:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday after three weeks at the International Space Station. Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg were at the controls of the robotics workstation removing Cygnus from the Harmony node then safely releasing it.
Parmitano and Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins, who assisted the duo during release operations, closed the hatches and depressurized Cygnus Monday morning. On Wednesday, the Cygnus will fire its engines for the last time at 1:41 p.m. and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean.
The six-member Expedition 37 crew got right back to work as Cygnus departed and reached a safe distance away from the space station.
Nyberg analyzed water samples, checked a science experiment and collected blood samples for storage in a science freezer. Parmitano worked on a couple of science experiments and took photos inside of Europe’s “Albert Einstein” Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 before its Oct. 28 undocking. Hopkins also gathered U.S. spacesuit tools and worked on a fluid physics experiment.
Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin worked on Russian maintenance tasks. Yurchikhin later joined Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy for crew handover activities. Ryazanskiy and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov worked throughout the morning gathering spacewalk tools for an upcoming Russian spacewalk. Kotov also worked on the Matroyshka radiation detection experiment and checked up on another experiment.
Cygnus delivered 1,300 pounds of gear on Sept. 29 when it arrived and was captured by Canadarm2 again with Nyberg and Parmitano at the controls. After Cygnus was captured and berthed to the Harmony node it successfully completed its demonstration mission to the International Space Station.
Orbital Sciences’ first official commercial resupply mission is scheduled for launch in December when Cygnus on the Orbital 1 mission will launch from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Future Cygnus flights will ensure a robust national capability to deliver critical science research to orbit, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new science investigations to the only laboratory in microgravity.
The only other commercial resupplier to the space station is SpaceX. The private launch company has conducted two demonstration missions and two resupply missions utilizing its Dragon cargo craft.