Freight spacecraft returns from first commercial mission


The first commercial space mission in history has ended after SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft returned back to Earth.

The flight to the International Space Station, which lasted for 21 days, ended when the unmanned freight cargo ship splash landed in the Pacific Ocean. The mission, designated CRS-1, is the first of twelve that SpaceX is sending to the ISS as part of NASA’s plan to replace the retired Space Shuttle with privately built and operated spacecraft that will one day carry both cargo and crew.

During the mission, the International Space Station crew closed Dragon’s hatch and depressurised the vestibule between Dragon and the station. The spacecraft was also detached from the space station and the crew eased it out to release position with the station’s robotic arm.

On its descent back to earth, at an altitude of 13,700 meters, it deployed two drogue parachutes to slow its descent and at 3000 meters, it deployed the three main parachutes. The splash landing occurred in the Pacific Ocean with a SpaceX recovery ship standing by.

The Dragon capsule was carrying 759 kilograms of cargo including frozen blood and urine samples collected from the astronaut crews, but which were stranded on the International Space Station following the retirement of the Space Shuttle.

The freight spacecraft will be taken ashore in Southern California where time-critical cargo will be removed before the capsule is sent to SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, for removal of the remaining cargo. Dragon will then be refurbished and prepared to fly another mission.

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