A unmanned NASA resupply ship, docked at the International Space Station (ISS) since February, departed Tuesday on one last mission to deploy satellites before burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.
The Cygnus supply ship, built by the Northrop Grumman aerospace company, is named the S.S. Katherine Johnson, after the African American NASA mathematician whose work was made famous in the movie Hidden Figures. Her calculations contributed to the February 20, 1962 mission in which John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth.
After departure from the space station, the Katherine Johnson was to remain in Earth orbit to deploy five cube satellites, including one designed to study the Earth's ionosphere, a layer of electrons in its upper atmosphere, along with an educational satellite from Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.
Thursday evening, the supply ship fires its engines one last time and re-enters the Earth's atmosphere where it will burn up. The ship is filled with several tons of waste from the orbiting outpost.
Another supply ship bound for the ISS is scheduled to be launched later Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.