Dragon's parachutes open up prior to splashdown today into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California. Earlier this month, the craft traveled to the International Space Station with over 2,300 pounds of cargo -- replacement components for the lab's carbon dioxide removal system; and more than 700 pounds of science gear, including a pair of Glacier freezers and experiment components. It returned to Earth hauling a few hundred pounds more than it dropped off -- including a set of Lego toys that have been on the station for the last two years.
Dragon bids goodbye to the International Space Station. The next SpaceX commercial resupply mission is scheduled for launch at the end of September. SpaceX, founded in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, builds low-cost rockets and spacecraft and is one of just two private spaceflight companies NASA has contracted for unmanned cargo delivery missions to the International Space Station. The other is Virginia-based Orbital Sciences. This mission marked the second in a series of at least a dozen commercial space station resupply missions under a $1.6 billion NASA contract.
A sight to behold: The Dragon, hovering above the Earth, photographed from the ISS. Later, flight engineer Tom Marshburn would capture the Dragon when it was 32 feet away from the station with the Canadarm2. Ground controllers subsequently assumed responsibility for operating the Canadarm2 and berthed Dragon to the space station.
SpaceX's Dragon fills a critical void. The manned Russian Soyuz spacecraft that carry three-person crews to and from the space station can only bring back a few hundred pounds of cargo. All other station vehicles burn up during re-entry.
Hoisted into space March 1, 2013, by its Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon spacecraft heads toward the International Space Station. It turned out to be a successful mission, though not without momentary drama after Dragon separated from Falcon 9’s second-stage. At that point, SpaceX engineers identified what was described as a minor issue with some of Dragon’s oxidizer tanks. The problem was corrected within a few hours.
During theSpaceX resupply last October, one of the engines in the Falcon 9 rocket malfunctioned at launch, prompting the flight computer to shut it down.
Front row: Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield (right), commander; and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, flight engineer. Pictured from the left (back row) are Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, and NASA astronaut Tom Marshburn.