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ISS Release Cargo Ship Packing 3,500 Pound of Trash

Aug 15, 2014 12:20 PM EDT

After a month-long visit at the International Space Station, a commercial cargo ship is diving towards Earth - filled with 3,500 pounds of trash, according to a NASA news release.

Astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) released the Cygnus space ship, now full of garbage, around 6:40 a.m. ET on Friday. Using a 58-foot robotic arm, they parted ways as the station passed by 260 miles above Africa's southwest coast.

The unmanned commercial spacecraft - built by the Orbital Sciences Corp., which has a contract with NASA - launched from Virginia in July. It was carrying 3,000 pounds of cargo for the ISS that included food, science equipment, mini-satellites and even odor-resistant exercise equipment for astronauts.

Experiment hardware was also on the Cygnus to ensure international research continued aboard the orbital laboratory, according to the NASA news release.

Cygnus, however, won't ever reach Earth's surface. On Sunday, the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences will steer the craft down through the atmosphere to burn up. The six space station crew members will attempt to catch it all on camera. The same kind of documentation will be done when a European space ship departs early next year. That craft, launched from French Guiana, delivered its shipment just a few days ago.

"All the best wishes," German spaceman Alexander Gerst radioed to the company's flight controllers, The Associated Press reported.

NASA and its international partners - Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada - want to learn about object re-entry in order to prepare for the eventual demise of the ISS within the next decade or two.

Cygnus is scheduled to deorbit Sunday around 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Orbital Sciences Corp. is one of two US companies hired by NASA to deliver space station goods. The California-based SpaceX will make its next supply run next month.

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