August 18, 2022

Watch private freighter leave space station early Tuesday for fiery death

Watch private freighter leave space station early Tuesday for fiery death
Watch private freighter leave space station early Tuesday for fiery deathWatch private freighter leave space station early Tuesday for fiery death

A private cargo spacecraft will leave the International Space Station (ISS) early Tuesday (June 28), and you can watch its departure live.

Northop Grumman’s robotic Cygnus freighter is scheduled to undock from the orbiting lab at 6:05 a.m. EDT (1005) Tuesday. Watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly via the space agency; coverage begins at 5:45 a.m. EDT (0945 GMT).

The Cygnus — named S.S. Piers Sellers, after the late NASA astronaut and climate scientist — arrived at the International Space Station with more than 8,300 pounds (3,760 kilograms) of scientific experiments and other supplies on Feb. 21. 

International Space Station: Facts, history and tracking

S.S. Piers Sellers is leaving on a high note. Just a day or so before its planned departure, the freighter fired its main engine to boost the altitude of the ISS. The maneuver was a milestone moment, showing that Cygnus craft can handle ISS reboosts, which had to date been handled by robotic Russian Progress spacecraft.

“This reboost of the ISS using Cygnus adds a critical capability to help maintain and support the space station,” Steve Krein, vice president, civil and commercial space, tactical space systems at Northrop Grumman, said in a statement (opens in new tab). “It also demonstrates the enormous capability Cygnus offers the ISS and future space exploration efforts.”

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus cargo craft approaches the International Space Station on Feb. 21, 2022.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo craft S.S. Piers Sellers approaches the International Space Station on Feb. 21, 2022.  (Image credit: NASA)

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S.S. Piers Sellers will fire up its engine again on Wednesday (June 29) in a deorbit burn, which will set it on course for a destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. (Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule, which is reusable, the Cygnus and Progress spacecraft burn up when their missions are complete.)

S.S. Piers Sellers was the 17th Cygnus to fly to the space station. The spacecraft’s departure will occur just 10 minutes after another spaceflight event — the launch of NASA’s CAPSTONE moon mission, which is scheduled to lift off aboard an Electron rocket on Tuesday at 5:55 a.m. EDT (0955 GMT). You can watch that launch here at Space.com as well.

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).