An unmanned SpaceX capsule has successfully splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean after a short-term stay on the International Space Station (ISS).
The return of the Crew Dragon spacecraft to Earth on Friday morning capped the first orbital test mission in US space agency NASA‘s long-delayed quest to resume human space flight from US soil later this year.
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“Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed!” the SpaceX account tweeted along with an image of the capsule showing its four main white and orange parachutes deployed as two boats sped towards it.
— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) March 8, 2019
After a five-day mission on the orbital outpost, Crew Dragon autonomously detached about 2:30am EST (07:30 GMT) on Friday and sped back to Earth reaching hypersonic speeds before an 8:45am EST (13:45 GMT) splash-down in the Atlantic, about 320km off the Florida coast.
A SpaceX rocket launched the 16-foot-tall capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday.
The first-of-its-kind mission, in advance of SpaceX’s crewed test flight slated for June, brought some 180kg of test equipment to the space station, including a dummy named Ripley, outfitted with sensors around its head, neck and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human.
The space station’s three-member crew greeted the capsule last Sunday, with US astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques entering Crew Dragon’s cabin to carry out air-quality tests and inspections.
The crewless mission, called Demo-1, was SpaceX’s chance to show it can build a spaceship that can carry people.
The company, founded by celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk, has so far shuttled only cargo to the ISS.