Astronaut Captures Spectacular Fireball as Resupply Ship Re-Enters Earth’s Atmosphere

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 18 2014 11:33 AM

The Fiery Final Descent of a Spaceship

On Aug. 17, 2014, the uncrewed Cygnus resupply ship Janice Voss burned up in Earth’s atmosphere, as planned. An astronaut on the International Space Station took this amazing shot of the cargo ship as it re-entered, breaking apart as it burned up.

Cygnus re-entry
The Cygnus cargo ship Janice Voss burns up after a one-month mission to resupply the space station.

Photo by ESA/NASA

iss_cygnus_reentry_aug172014_354

Photo by ESA / NASA

The Orbital Sciences spacecraft was launched on July 13, 2014, and berthed to the ISS on July 16. The second such mission from Orbital to the ISS, it contained over 1.4 tons of supplies, including provisions, food, science payloads, and hardware. After all that cargo was offloaded, the astronauts then loaded it back up with about 1.5 tons of disposable items (essentially trash). It separated from ISS on Aug. 15, lowered its orbit, and dropped down into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean two days later. The ship was named after American astronaut Janice Voss, a five-time space veteran, who died in 2012.

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This was the second of eight contracted supply missions to ISS from Orbital. The next is scheduled for no earlier than Oct. 14. Astronaut Alex Gerst also has a phenomenal Flickr set of photos of the Cygnus mission taken from the ISS.

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