Orbital’s C. Gordon Fullerton ‘Cygnus’ spacecraft departs International Space Station
The Expedition 38 crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) said their farewells to a fellow traveler today. The Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Cygnus spacecraft (dubbed the C. Gordon Fullerton in honor of a recently-deceased astronaut) was unberthed from the space station today, Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 6:41 a.m. EST (1141 GMT).
This marks the second Cygnus spacecraft to travel into the black of space to the orbiting laboratory. The soda-can shaped spacecraft spent some 37 days attached to the ISS. During its stay on the ISS, 2,780 lb (1,261kg) of cargo was delivered and unloaded by the crew. Before its departure, the empty Cygnus spacecraft was loaded with 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of discarded items, which will be incinerated upon reentry tomorrow, Feb. 19.
During its time at the space station it was berthed to the nadir port of the Harmony module. It was released via the station’s Canadarm 2 by Expedition 38 crew including NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata.
The next Cygnus spacecraft is currently slated to launch in the late afternoon on March 1 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, VA. Like its predecessors, it will be launched atop one of Orbital’s Antares rocket’s from Pad-01 at Wallops Flight Facility’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
The flight of the C. Gordon Fullerton marked the first under the $1.9 billion contract that the Dulles, Virginia-based firm has with NASA. Under the terms of the Commercial Resupply Services or “CRS” contract, Orbital must fly eight cargo resupply missions to the space station through 2016.
NASA’s CRS program has seen not one, but two private companies, Orbital as well as Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). SpaceX has sent three of the firm’s Dragon spacecraft to the space station. The next CRS mission is currently scheduled to take place in March of 2014.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.