It's a Super-Busy Time at the International Space Station Right Now

The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship S.S. John Glenn pulls away from the International Space Station on June 4, 2017 in this view from a NASA camera on the station exterior.
The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship S.S. John Glenn pulls away from the International Space Station on June 4, 2017 in this view from a NASA camera on the station exterior. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The last few days have been non-stop action for astronauts on the International Space Station, and there's still more work on the way.

Today (June 2), NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson bid farewell to a robotic Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship, an event that came amid four days of spaceship landings, launches, departures and arrivals.

"It's a remarkable time at the international space station. One of the busiest times of vehicle traffic in history," NASA spokesman Rob Navias said today as Fischer and Whitson worked to release the Cygnus cargo ship.

It all began on Friday (June 1), when two space station crewmembers returned to Earth on a Soyuz space capsule. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency landed in the remote steppes of Kazakhstan to end a six-month mission to the International Space Station. Their return left Whitson, Fischer and Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin behind on the station.

One day later, on Saturday (June 2), a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a Dragon cargo ship packed with 6,000 lbs. (2,721 kilograms) of fresh supplies toward the space station. That launch marked a major milestone for SpaceX: It's the first time the company reused a Dragon capsule (it first flew in 2014).

Then came today's Cygnus departure. The Orbital ATK cargo ship launched to the space station in mid-April to deliver 7,600 lbs. (3,500 kilograms) of supplies. It will be intentionally disposed of by burning up in Earth's atmosphere on June 11.  

"This is the first time in history that two U.S. commercial cargo vehicles will be in free flight at the same time," Navias said.

But we're not done yet.

On Monday (June 5), the Dragon spacecraft that launched Saturday will arrive at the space station. Whitson and Fischer will use the station's robotic arm to capture the Dragon capsule and attach it to a berthing port so the craft can be unpacked.

According to Navias, the space station crew will get a bit of a breather after the Dragon arrival. But in 10 days, they'll see another arrival: an uncrewed Russian Progress cargo ship packed with still more supplies, he added.

Then on July 28, a new crew is scheduled to launch to the space station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. So, whew! There's still more space action to come this summer!

Editor's Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that NASA astronaut Jack Fischer remains on the space station, not French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.