Astronaut Captures Video of Trash-Filled Spaceship's Fiery Demise

When a private spaceship was cremated over Earth earlier this summer, the astronauts living and working on board the International Space Station had a stunning view of the vehicle's fiery demise.

In this time-lapse video made by European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, Orbital Sciences' Cygnus capsule looks like a meteor streaking above the clouds as it disintegrates during re-entry into the planet's atmosphere.

Packed with astronaut food, supplies, science experiments and tiny satellites, Cygnus launched in July atop Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. After the spacecraft successfully docked with the station and its cargo was unloaded, Cygnus was filled with trash and cast off the orbiting lab.

The capsule's demise marked the end of Orbital Sciences' second official cargo trip to the space station under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA. The Dulles, Virginia-based company is on the hook for eight resupply missions to the station in total as part of the deal. Astronauts on the station also captured amazing photos of the Cygnus spacecraft's fiery re-entry and posted them on Twitter.

Gerst has been aboard the International Space Station — and documenting his experience on social media — since late May, when he arrived for a 5.5-month mission alongside NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and cosmonaut Maxim Suraev. Their three fellow crewmembers — NASA's Steve Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev — are due to leave the space station tomorrow (Sept. 10).

The departing crewmembers will be replaced later this month with the launch of NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova. The $100-billion space station has been continuously occupied by rotating crews of astronauts since 2000.

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Megan Gannon Contributing Writer

Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity on a Zero Gravity Corp. to follow students sparking weightless fires for science. Follow her on Twitter for her latest project.