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In Brief

Private Cygnus Cargo Ship Leaves Space Station for Oblivion

Cygnus Spacecraft Released from ISS
The Cygnus spacecraft as seen when it was released from the International Space Station on Aug. 15, 2014. (Image credit: NASA (via Twitter as @NASA))

A private cargo ship loaded down with trash left the International Space Station Friday morning (Aug. 15). Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft is due to plunge into Earth's atmosphere, burning up above the Pacific Ocean on Sunday (Aug. 17).

The Cygnus craft launched to space on July 13 with close to 3,300 lbs. (1,496 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts on the orbiting outpost. "A flock of nanosatellites was also shipped to the station aboard Cygnus for future release from the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock beginning next week," NASA officials said in a statement. "Individually known as “Dove” satellites, the group will collect continuous Earth imagery documenting natural and man-made conditions of the environment to improve disaster relief and increase agricultural yields."

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences is one of two private companies that fly unmanned missions to the International Space Station for NASA. The departure of Cygnus marks the end of the company's second mission to the space laboratory under a $1.9 billion contract for eight resupply missions. The other company, SpaceX, uses its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to bring cargo to the station under a $1.6 billion NASA deal for 12 missions. [See photos of the 2nd Cygnus cargo mission]

Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft seen from the International Space Station after its release on Aug. 15, 2014. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

Miriam Kramer
Miriam Kramer joined Space.com as a staff writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also serves as Space.com's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. You can follow Miriam on Twitter and Google+.

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