The Cygnus spacecraft was released from the International Space Station today at 9:30 a.m. EDT. The released occurred as the space station flew above Paraguay. Earlier, ground controllers detached Cygnus from the station and maneuvered it into place for its departure.
Cygnus will continue to orbit Earth for up to eight days as it transmits hi-resolution imagery and data from the Saffire experiment.
The experiment will have NASA intentionally set a fire in the belly of the unmanned Cygnus spacecraft. The fire is set to be lit about five hours after the capsule was released — ensuring it is at a safe distance from the International Space Station.
The fire will burn for an estimated 20 minutes as sensors and cameras collect information about the inferno. The test will help NASA understand how flames behave in a microgravity environment.
The experiment will be repeated two more times this year with other Cygnus capsules, according to NASA.
“Saffire seeks to answer two questions,” David Urban, Saffire principal investigator, said in a statement earlier this year. “Will an upward spreading flame continue to grow or will microgravity limit the size? Secondly, what fabrics and materials will catch fire and how will they burn?”
Following complete data transmission, the Cygnus spacecraft will complete its destructive entry into the Earth’s atmosphere on June 22.