SpaceX's Dragon Splashes Down With Cargo Intact
The ability to safely retrieve scientific samples, satellite parts, and other cargo from the International Space Station has NASA engineers excited.
SpaceX's Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station successfully concluded its latest journey early Sunday morning, when the Dragon cargo capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.
Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed, carrying @NASA science and research cargo back from the @Space_Station.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 19, 2017
The Dragon mission is a historic first for Elon Musk's private space company. The mission was SpaceX's first to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, and the 5,500 pounds of cargo and supplies it delivered to the ISS bodes well for the company's close relationship with NASA, which does not operate its own resupply craft.
While the Dragon capsule is designed to be launched on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, it requires little more than a crew command from the ISS and a few parachutes to return to Earth. The company started testing Dragon parachute-assisted landings in early 2016 by releasing dummy versions of the craft from a C-130 cargo aircraft flying at an altitude of a few thousand feet.
The real landing involved the crew releasing the capsule from the International Space Station in the early hours of March 19, and it successfully splashed down off the coast of Baja, California, nearly six hours later at 7:46 a.m. local time on March 20.
Among the Dragon's cargo were stem cell samples that could help cancer research and satellite equipment to be repaired. In a statement, NASA said it has high hopes for Dragon since it is among the first craft that can safely return cargo from space. Most supply missions to the ISS are flown using Russian-build Progress craft, which are designed to burn up upon reentry.
Eventually, SpaceX hopes to complete successful Dragon landings on solid ground, using eight small engines for maneuverability.Read More
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