Space X's Dragon Capsule Returns To Earth
The unmanned Dragon capsule splashed into the waters off the coast of Baja California, marking the successful completion of a commercial company sending cargo to the International Space Station. The completion means SpaceX will most likely get a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 more similar missions.
The capsule landed close to target, 560 miles from Baja California, at approximately 11:42 EST.
"Congratulations to the teams at SpaceX and NASA who worked hard to make this first commercial mission to the International Space Station an overwhelming success," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
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"This successful splashdown and the many other achievements of this mission herald a new era in U.S. commercial spaceflight. American innovation and inspiration have once again shown their great strength in the design and operation of a new generation of vehicles to carry cargo to our laboratory in space. Now more than ever we're counting on the inventiveness of American companies and American workers to make the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations accessible to any and all who have dreams of space travel."
The launch of a capsule to the International Space Station is the first time for a commercial company. The Dragon capsule carried half a ton of supplies to the space station, and returned with 2/3 of a ton.
"I don't think it's going to take us very long to make the determination that this was an extremely successful mission, and they should be well on their way to starting services," commented Alan Lindenmoyer, who leads NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, to the BBC.
NASA will determine whether or not to award the contract for 12 more resupply trips based on the success of this mission and COTS benchmarks.
On May 22, the Falcon9 rocket took the Dragon capsule into space, where it then manuevered itself so that it could be captured by the space station's robotic arm.
For its journey home, it was released above the Southern Ocean, then after five hours took a 10-minute journey through our atmosphere before crashing into the water.