Cygnus Spacecraft to Depart the ISS, Will Deploy Two Satellites on Its Way Back

Cygnus spacecraft 6 photos
Photo: NASA
Northrop Grumman's uncrewed Cygnus spacecraftNorthrop Grumman's uncrewed Cygnus spacecraftNorthrop Grumman's uncrewed Cygnus spacecraftNorthrop Grumman's uncrewed Cygnus spacecraftNorthrop Grumman's uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft
After delivering baby squids, worms, and even fungi, Northrop Grumman's uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft is ready to depart the ISS. Its departure is set on Tuesday, June 29th, and on its way back home, the spacecraft will deploy two satellites – the IT-SPINS and MYSat-2.
The Cygnus spacecraft, which is made up of a service module and a pressurized cargo module, features advanced avionics as well as guidance and navigation components that enable a fully autonomous rendezvous with the space station.

Four months ago, Northrop Grumman's 15th cargo flight, or NG-15 (named after Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician who calculated orbital mechanics for some of the first U.S. human spaceflights), to the space station carried 8,000 pounds (3,629 kg) of hardware, scientific investigations, commercial products, and other supplies. Now, Cygnus is finally ready to depart the orbital laboratory.

The departure will be broadcast at noon EDT on NASA TV, the agency's website, and the NASA app. On Earth, flight controllers will send commands to the spacecraft to start detaching from the Unity module's Earth-facing port using the ISS Canadarm2 robotic arm.

Cygnus will then be maneuvered into place by the robotic arm before being released at 12:25 p.m. EDT. Once separated from the space station, the spacecraft will deploy two cube satellites.

Dubbed the Ionosphere Thermosphere Scanning Photometer for Ion-Neutral Studies (IT-SPINS), the first satellite will offer insight on changes in the Earth's ionosphere and the physics that cause it. The data collected will be used to improve forecasts of space weather.

Khalifa University Students Satellite-2 (MYSat-2) is the second one. Developed by Khalifa University students, its mission is to evaluate the performance of algorithms and the spacecraft's control reaction. Better algorithms might help better control satellites and other spacecraft and enhance their overall safety and performance.

After deploying the satellites, Cygnus will fire its deorbit engine and prepare for a fiery re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. As it burns up on re-entry, the spacecraft will dispose of the waste that the space station crew packed during these months on the ISS.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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