The Cygnus cargo spacecraft that flew to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 21 with supplies and science equipment for the astronauts of Expedition 55-56 hast just left the orbiting laboratory for its return trip to Earth.
The spacecraft undocked from the ISS at 8:35 a.m. EDT (12:35 GMT) on July 15 and will be heading back home at the end of the month, reports Space.com.
Cygnus was released from the space station with the help of the Canadarm2 robotic arm, which unberthed the vehicle from the Unity Module where it was parked.
Operated by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, the robot moved Cygnus to a safe distance from the ISS and then released it into Low Earth Orbit.
"At the time of release, the station was flying 253 miles above the Southeastern border of Colombia," NASA stated earlier today.
Built by Orbital ATK, now part of Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, Cygnus arrived at the ISS on May 24, with a 7,385-pound cargo (3,350 kilograms) of science experiments, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware, as reported by the Inquisitr.
For its round trip to Earth, the astronauts have loaded Cygnus up with "thousands of pounds of trash," which will be disposed of when the spacecraft burns up in our planet's atmosphere upon arrival.
Unlike SpaceX's Dragon cargo pods, which are built to touch down back on Earth after ferrying supplies to the ISS, the Cygnus spacecraft is non-reusable, meaning it gets destroyed at the end of each mission.
This particular Cygnus vehicle, identified as Cygnus OA-9 — or "S.S. J.R. Thompson," in honor of James Robert "J.R." Thompson, the late NASA director and Orbital ATK executive — will be ending its mission on July 30.
"Cygnus is scheduled to deorbit with thousands of pounds of trash on Monday, July 30, as it burns up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean while entering Earth's atmosphere," NASA officials stated in a news release.
Since the cargo ship will get torn apart over the Pacific, any falling debris from pieces that could survive the deorbit are bound to land in the ocean, without causing any harm to populated areas, notes Space.com.