Science! By Aug. 26, 2014 12:30 pm
Astronaut aboard ISS films orbital cremation of the Cygnus cargo vehicle in 4K | Science! |

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have been working on growing small crops of edible foods, but human space flight is still far from being self-sustaining. The space station requires regular resupply runs, which have fallen to private firms like SpaceX and the lesser known Orbital Science Corporation. One of Orbital’s Cygnus capsules left the ISS recently and an astronaut on board managed to capture some awesome 4K video footage of it burning up in the atmosphere.

The Cygnus is designed to deliver more than 3,000lbs of food and equipment to the station, but unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, the automated Cygnus capsule makes a one-way trip to space. After a Cygnus is unloaded, astronauts fill it up with 3,500lbs of garbage and send it off to burn up in the atmosphere. Taking out the trash is much more dramatic in space. Orbital Science Corporation has a contract with NASA to make at least eight cargo missions to the ISS.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst spotted the Cygnus capsule after its departure from the ISS earlier this month and filmed it as it descended into the atmosphere at a steep angle. The glowing dot toward the right of the screen is the Cygnus as it is ripped to bits by the intense heat of reentry. The footage is spectacular and well worth a quick watch. NASA may use the footage for engineering studies of reentry mechanics.

Astronauts will attempt to capture footage of a  similar ESA supply craft burning up early next year following its supply run. SpaceX is scheduled to link up a Dragon capsule with the station later next month, which hopefully will not end with the craft exploding in the upper atmosphere.

Astronaut aboard ISS films orbital cremation of the Cygnus cargo vehicle in 4K | Science! |


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