Shuttle Atlantis releases tiny satellite before returning to Earth
Shuttle Atlantis put PicoSat, a US military satellite, into orbit Wednesday morning. See video below of space shuttle Atlantis leaving the International Space Station for the last time.
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PicoSat is expected to operate on orbit for three to nine months. During that time it will also perform two experiments for the DoD.Skip to next paragraph
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One, called the Miniature Tracking Vehicle experiment, will test whether a nanosatellite like the PicoSat can serve as an orbiting reference point for ground tracking systems. The second, called Compact Total Electron Content Sensor, will monitor space weather and detect the density of the Earth's ionosphere.
Atlantis is slated to land at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday at 5:57 a.m. EDT (0957 GMT). The shuttle departed the International Space Station on Tuesday (July 19), where it dropped off a shipment of spare parts and new supplies for the orbiting outpost.
NASA is retiring its space shuttle fleet after 30 years of flight to make way for a new program aimed at deep space exploration. After this flight, Atlantis and its sister ships Discovery and Endeavour will be sent to museums for public display.
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RELATED VIDEO: Atlantis crew says goodbye to ISS