Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo freighter, the SpaceShip Janice Voss, completed a month-long delivery mission to the International Space Station on Friday (Aug. 15) when it was released from the grapple of the Canadarm2 robotic arm at 5:40 a.m. CDT (1040 GMT).
The SS Janice Voss is now orbiting on its own, separating from the station and heading for a deorbit and a fiery reentry over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday.
Expedition 40 flight engineers Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman were inside the space station's cupola remotely controlling the 58-foot Canadian arm from the robotics workstation. Gerst, who was backed up by Wiseman, was in charge of releasing the resupply vehicle after ground controllers at Mission Control, Houston remotely maneuvered it into the release position following its unberthing from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.
Filled with trash, Cygnus completed its second commercial resupply mission for NASA. Orbital Sciences launched the spacecraft July 13 atop an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia. At least six more missions will be flown by Cygnus to the station through 2016.
The Expedition 40 crewmembers hope to document Cygnus' reentry Sunday as part of an engineering exercise to study the mechanics of the breakup of a space vehicle. The SS Janice Voss is scheduled to deorbit Sunday around 7:30 a.m. CDT (1230 GMT).