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Cygnus OA-8 cargo spacecraft departs ISS

Cygnus OA-8 cargo spacecraft at sunrise

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik photographed the Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-8 cargo spacecraft at sunrise, prior to its departure from the International Space Station at 13:11 UTC, Dec. 6, 2017. (Click for full view) Photo Credit: Randy Bresnik / NASA

The Orbital ATK Cygnus OA-8 cargo spacecraft departed from the International Space Station at 8:11 a.m. EST (13:11 GMT) on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, after delivering almost 7,400 pounds (3,356 kg) of cargo to support science experiments. Expedition 53 NASA Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba gave the command to release the Cygnus capsule, which had docked to the space station on November 14.

Earlier, on Tuesday, December 5, ground controllers at Johnson Space Center used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the Cygnus spacecraft from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Unity module. Cygnus was maneuvered above the Harmony module to gather data that will aid in rendezvous and docking operations for future U.S. commercial crew vehicles arriving for a linkup to Harmony’s international docking adapters.

The experiments delivered on Cygnus supported NASA and other research investigations during Expedition 53, including studies in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science. Cygnus will also release 14 CubeSats from an external NanaRacks Deployer. With a completely full NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer (ENRCSD), which includes a virtual reality camera, NanoRacks has now successfully delivered 600 payloads to the space station since 2009.

The External Cygnus Deployer includes six separate satellites including the ISARA and Aerocube B/C which is funded through NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP), which is charted to develop and mature technologies to enhance and expand the capabilities of small spacecraft with a focus on communications, propulsion, pointing, power, and autonomous operations.

The Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) is a hybrid solar power panel and communication solar antenna that can send and receive messages. Another nanosat is the Optical Communication Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) which will test the functionality of laser-based communications that can lead to enhanced speeds between space and Earth.

Among the experiments is the AntiMicrobial Satellite (EcAMSat) which will study microgravity’s effect on bacterial antibiotic resistance. The experiment will expose two strains of E. coli to three different doses of antibiotics, then examine the viability of each group. The results of this investigation could contribute to determining appropriate antibiotic dosages to protect astronauts’ health during long-duration spaceflight missions. The ExAMSat flight opportunity is the thirteenth installment of the Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission and sponsored by the NASA Launch Services Program (LSP).

NanoRack customers from this mission include NRO Office of Space Launch, Asgardia, Spire, Tyvak, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
Cygnus also is packed with more than 6,200 pounds (2,812 kg) of trash and other items for disposal during its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere on Monday, December 18, over the Pacific Ocean.

The Cygnus spacecraft, which is named S.S. Gene Cernan after the last astronaut to walk on the Moon, launched on November 12 on Orbital ATK’s updated Antares 230 rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for the company’s eighth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

Video courtesy of NASA Video



Heather Smith's fascination for space exploration – started at the tender age of twelve while she was on a sixth-grade field trip in Kenner, Louisiana, walking through a mock-up of the International Space Station and seeing the “space potty” (her terminology has progressed considerably since that time) – she realized at this point that her future lay in the stars. Smith has come to realize that very few people have noticed how much spaceflight technology has improved their lives. She has since dedicated herself to correcting this problem. Inspired by such classic literature as Anne Frank’s Diary, she has honed her writing skills and has signed on as The Spaceflight Group’s coordinator for the organization’s social media efforts.

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