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Private Cygnus Cargo Ship Ends Mission with Fiery Death in the Earth's Atmosphere



The Cygnus cargo spacecraft completed its latest resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA today (Feb. 25) with a death dive into Earth's atmosphere

The robotic Cygnus vessel – named "SS John Young" after the late commander of NASA's Apollo 16 moon mission – launched in November atop an Antares rocket and delivered about 7,400 lbs. (3,350 kilograms) of supplies and scientific gear to the orbiting lab.

The freighter, which is built by Aerospace company Northrop Grumman, stayed docked to the station for 81 days. It departed on Feb. 8 loaded with more than 5,500 lbs. (2,500 kg) of trash for fiery disposal after re-entry. [ Private Antares Rocket & Cygnus Spacecraft Explained (Infographic) ]

But that plunge did not occur immediately, because Cygnus had more work to do as a free flyer on a bonus commercial mission.

"It was a flawless mission for Cygnus that further demonstrated its ability to operate as an in-orbit science platform. and the launch pad for the deployment of commercial cubesats on extended missions, "Frank DeMauro, vice president and general manager of space systems at Northrop Grumman, said in a statement.

Cygnus burned over the Pacific Ocean, east of new Zealand, at 4:05 am EST (0905 GMT) this morning, Northrop Grumman's representatives said.

The contract was completed with NASA by the Cygnus / Antares duo under the CRS-1

(Commercial Resupply Services, phase 1). The next flight, in April, will be the final one under this deal; Delivery of the next contract, known as CRS-2, will begin this fall.

SpaceX also flies commercial resupply missions to ISS for NASA, using its robotic Dragon cargo capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. Unlike Cygnus, Dragon is reusable; The latter craft makes parachute-aided ocean splashdowns, so it can bring scientific samples and other gears down to Earth for analysis.

SpaceX also works on a crewed version of Dragon under a separate commercial-crew contract with NASA. Crew Dragon is scheduled to launch on its maiden flight, an uncrewed trip to the ISS known as Demo-1 this Saturday (March 2).

Aerospace giant Boeing also holds a NASA commercial-crew contract. Boeing's CST-100 capsule will fly its first uncrowned mission to the station no earlier than April.

Mike Wall's book on the search for alien life, Out There Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate ) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .


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