Dragon Splashdown Concludes Historic SpaceX Mission
Photo via Twitter/@SpaceX
May 31, 2012 - SpaceX's Dragon capsule completed its historic mission Thursday morning at 10:42 a.m. CDT as it splashed down about 500 miles west of Baja California in the Pacific Ocean.
It was the first commercial mission to resupply the International Space Station, bringing more than a half-ton of experiments, food, clothing, and technology to the orbiting outpost. The unmanned mission launched last week from Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted, "Splashdown successful!!" while the official SpaceX Twitter feed exclaimed, "Splashdown! Welcome home #Dragon!"
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called the nearly flawless mission "an overwhelming success" and congratulated the SpaceX and NASA teams who worked together on it. "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," he said.
Three main parachutes opened about five minutes prior to splashdown, slowing the capsule's descent to about 16 fps. The Dragon capsule was to be delivered to the California coast then returned to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas. Dragon brought back more than 1,300 pounds of cargo back from the ISS, including science experiments that will be returned to researchers, and hardware and cargo no longer needed aboard the station.
NASA will evaluate the Dragon capsule's mission performance to close out remaining Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestones. NASA and SpaceX will then set a target date for the company's first full cargo mission.