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Departure of US cargo ship from International Space Station

(5 February 2019 - NASA) Three months after delivering several tons of supplies and science to the International Space Station, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft will depart the complex at 11:10 a.m. EST Friday, Feb. 8.

Expedition 58 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Cygnus after ground controllers unbolt the spacecraft from the Earth-facing port of the Unity module and maneuver it to the release position.

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Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft, with its prominent cymbal-shaped UltraFlex solar arrays, is pictured Nov. 19, 2018, in the grips of the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm after it was captured by Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Alexander Gerst. (courtesy: NASA)

Cygnus will depart the station with 5,500 pounds of trash and carry out an extended mission over about two weeks. The spacecraft will maneuver to a higher altitude where an external CubeSat deployer, developed by industry partner NanoRacks to provide increased commercial access to space, will release two CubeSats into orbit. Cygnus then will move to a lower orbit to deploy a third CubeSat, KickSat-2, which carries 100 tiny satellites called femtosatellites. The femtosatellites each include a power, sensor and communication system on a printed circuit board that measures 3.5 by 3.5 cm, with a thickness of a few millimeters and a mass of less than 3.5 ounces. These deployments demonstrate additional commercial activity and technology advancements enabled by the partnerships forged through the orbiting laboratory and the potential for future opportunities.

Cygnus is scheduled to deorbit Feb. 25 and enter the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.