Watch live as private Cygnus cargo craft leaves the ISS on Dec. 22 (Image Credit: Space.com)
A robotic cargo ship will depart from the space station on Friday (Dec. 22), and you can watch the action for free.
Northrop Grumman’s uncrewed Cygnus NG-19 spacecraft should undock from the International Space Station (ISS) at 8:05 a.m. EST (1305 GMT) on Friday. You can watch coverage here at Space.com, via NASA Television, starting at 7:45 a.m. EST (1245 GMT).
Cygnus has spent 4.5 months at the orbiting complex, following an Aug. 4 arrival that brought up 8,200 pounds (3,800 kilograms) of hardware, supplies, science, commercial products and other cargo, NASA officials said in a Wednesday (Dec. 20) release.
NG-19, the 19th commercial resupply mission from Northrop Grumman, launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Aug. 1. It was named after Laurel Clark, a NASA astronaut who died (with six other astronauts) during the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003. NG-19 was also the last mission to launch on a version of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket that used a first stage built in Ukraine.
The spacecraft is now docked to the U.S. Unity module on the ISS’ Earth-facing port. To detach it, flight controllers on the ground will instruct the robotic Canadarm2 to conduct the procedure, and then move the freighter for release. NASA astronaut Loral O’Hara “will monitor Cygnus’ systems upon its departure from the space station,” NASA officials wrote in the release.
Cygnus’ exact date to return to Earth has not been released. The spacecraft will perform undisclosed “secondary payload operations” before it is commanded in early January to plunge into Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up with trash on board.
The other commercial cargo craft currently active for NASA, SpaceX‘s Dragon capsule, can bring science back to Earth, as it is designed to survive the fiery trip through our planet’s atmosphere and splash down in the ocean.