SpaceX Dragon craft successfully splashes down after Int'l Space Station delivery

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware  |  Updated May 11, 2016 at 4:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft successfully returned to Earth Wednesday after a month-long orbital journey to deliver 7,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station.

The Dragon began its departure procedure from the station around 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean nearly six hours later.

After detaching from the station, the Dragon circled Earth multiple times before firing its thrusters around 2 p.m. to start its descent from orbit. The craft's un-pressurized "trunk" jettisoned before the capsule re-entered the atmosphere.

The Dragon deployed its parachutes and gently splashed down in the ocean, about 250 miles southwest of Long Beach, Calif., at 2:51 p.m. EDT, SpaceX said.

A recovery team retrieved the capsule and nearly 4,000 pounds of cargo, NASA said in a news release earlier Wednesday. The cargo included human, biology and biotechnology studies, as well as physical science investigations.

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft detached from the International Space Station early Wednesday and returned to Earth at around 3 p.m. EDT. The cargo spaceship hauled the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, seen here being fitted into the ISS, which Robert Bigelow says he hopes will lead to rentable space in the near future. Photo courtesy NASA

"The Dragon spacecraft has served us well," British astronaut Tim Peake radioed to mission controllers in Houston after the Dragon first departed the space station. "It's good to see it departing full of science, and we wish it a safe recovery back to planet Earth."

Also among the cargo was more than 1,000 tubes of blood, urine and saliva collected from former American astronaut Scott Kelly before his yearlong mission in the ISS ended in March. NASA will analyze the biological materials to further study the effects of microgravity on humans over extended periods of time.

The Dragon launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on April 8.

Packed aboard the craft and now installed in the International Space Station is the the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM -- an experimental living space designed by Bigelow Aerospace, which company owner Robert Bigelow says he hopes will lead to rentable space in the near future.

SpaceX and NASA will launch the next resupply mission from Cape Canaveral next month -- the ninth of as many as 20 planned missions.

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