SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Down in Pacific, Ending Historic Test Flight

March 10, 2015 – 04:11 pm
SpaceX's first Dragon capsule to visit the International Space Station bobs in the Pacific Ocean after a successful splashdown that capped its successful test flight on May 31, 2012.A map shows where Dragon was expected to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on May 31, 2012.
Credit: NASA TV

Dragon became the first private vehicle to visit the space station when it docked there May 25, three days after launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The capsule spent a total of five days, 16 hours and 5 minutes attached to the $100 billion orbiting laboratory. [Dragon Capsule's Space Station Arrival in Pictures]

"It was a major success for us, " Dragon mission director John Couluris of SpaceX said during a news conference yesterday (May 30). "The trust and hard work that NASA helped SpaceX with were really important.Dragon Splashdown Map The ability to get to the space station on our first time, to not only rendezvous but to berth — we would call that mission alone a success."

SpaceX's test drive for NASA

The nine-day Dragon flight was a test run for the 12 cargo-delivery flights SpaceX (short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) is contracted to fly for NASA for a total of $1.6 billion. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company was founded in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also co-founded PayPal.

"We are hoping to continue working with NASA and hopefully flying crew within three years, " Musk said. "This was a crucial step and makes the chances of becoming a multi planet species more likely."

Though this flight is only Dragon's second-ever trip to orbit, the mission went smoothly from end to end, with all the major milestones achieved without mishap.

That Dragon's re-entry and splashdown went well marks another significant achievement, as the spacecraft is alone among the automated cargo freighters that service the space station in its ability to carry supplies not just up, but down.

While the cargo-delivery spacecraft built by Russia, Japan and Europe are designed to burn up during re-entry, Dragon is equipped with a heat shield and parachutes to survive the fiery plunge.


Source: www.space.com

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