The SpaceX Dragon capsule nears the International Space Station's robotic arm.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL (Florida Today) - A cargo-carrying SpaceX capsule splashed down in the
Pacific Ocean today, completing a successful, 23-day round trip to the
International Space Station.
news," U.S. astronaut Thomas Marshburn said when Mission Control told
the outpost crew the Dragon spacecraft had completed a 10-minute engine
firing that dropped it out of orbit.
"That's incredible. We wish them well," added station commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency.
The parachute-assisted return to Earth concluded at about 12:34 p.m. EDT.
"SPLASHDOWN! At 9:34 a.m. PT, #Dragon splashed down safely in the Pacific. Welcome home!" the company tweeted.
ships and personnel already were on hand at the recovery zone 214 miles
off the coast of Baja California. The return had been scheduled for
Monday but rough seas prompted a one-day delay.
recovery fleet includes a 185-foot barge equipped with cranes to lift
the spacecraft onto the vessel. A smaller crew boat carries engineers
and a dive team. Two rigid-hulled inflatable boats round out the fleet.
The Dragon capsule is loaded with 2,668 pounds of experiment equipment and science samples.
Dragon capsules are the only spacecraft capable of returning large
amounts of cargo to Earth now that the U.S. shuttle fleet is retired.
Other station resupply ships are filled with trash and deliberately
incinerated during atmospheric reentry.
The Dragon should be returned to the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday.
March 1 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9
rocket, the Dragon overcame thruster trouble and reached the station two
days later. More than a ton of supplies were delivered to the station.
commercial cargo carrier departed the orbital laboratory complex at
6:56 a.m. EDT today. The capsule had been grappled with the station's
Canadian-built robot arm at 4:10 a.m. EDT, and then moved off of the
Earth-facing port of the U.S. Harmony module.
Hadfield triggered the release from a robot arm control station in the
complex's Cupola, a seven-window observation deck. The space station and
the Dragon were flying about 252 miles above the southwest coast of
Australia at the time.
"There goes Dragon away from the arm," said NASA mission commentator Josh Byerly.
"Looks both beautiful and nominal from here," Hadfield said.
flight controllers then executed a series of three thruster firings,
pushing the Dragon out of the station's immediate vicinity. The Dragon
began a 56-minute atmospheric reentry at 11:42 a.m. EDT.
up on Thursday, U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts
Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin are scheduled to blast off from
Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Their six-hour flight to the
outpost will mark the first same-day launch-to-docking at the
International Space Station. Two-day trips have been the norm since the
first expedition crew opened the orbiting laboratory complex in November
The three-man crew already on board also includes Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.