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SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule in the Pacific Ocean   (Source: Michael Altenhofen)
SpaceX will now look forward to hearing from NASA about 12 additional missions to the ISS

SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule has successfully completed its first trip to the International Space Station (ISS) with a splash in the Pacific Ocean.

"Welcome home, baby," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. "It's like seeing your kid come home."

SpaceX is now the first private rocket company to send a spacecraft to the ISS since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet last year, leaving U.S. astronauts to depend on Russia when it came to space transportation.

After the space shuttle fleet's retirement, SpaceX stepped in with its Dragon cargo capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to lift supplies to the ISS. After a few delays throughout the first few months of this year, the Dragon made its way to the ISS at 3:44 a.m. on May 22. It launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida along with the Falcon 9 rocket with intentions of delivering supplies to the ISS. 

On May 25, the Dragon finally made it to the ISS after passing a series of tests. The Dragon attached to the ISS at 12:02 p.m. that day.

From there, the Dragon delivered 674 pounds of food, clothing and other supplies as well as 271 pounds of cargo bags, 46 pounds of science experiments, and 22 pounds of computer equipment to the ISS.

Today, the Dragon made its way home after detaching from the ISS' robotic arm at 2:29 a.m. PDT. Five hours later, the Dragon used its thrusters to begin slowing down while at 240 miles above the Indian Ocean. At 7:51 a.m. PDT, SpaceX engineers confirmed the beginning of the deorbit burn.

The Dragon then slowly fell out of orbit due to the change in velocity from the burn. It finally splashed down into the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles off the coast of Baja California at 8:42 a.m. PDT. The capsule was recovered by boats and brought to the port of Los Angeles.

From launch to the splashdown, SpaceX's Dragon mission lasted 9 days, 7 hours and 58 minutes.

With the Dragon mission being a success, SpaceX will now look forward to hearing from NASA about 12 additional missions to the ISS. While these missions will be unmanned and sent for the purpose of re-supplying the ISS, SpaceX is currently working on a manned version for carrying astronauts.

This isn't SpaceX's only win of the week. Just yesterday, it was announced that SpaceX and satellite service provider Intelsat reached a commercial agreement for the launch of a Heavy Falcon rocket. The Heavy Falcon is a powerful rocket that represents SpaceX's entry into the heavy lift launch vehicle arena. The Falcon Heavy rocket can carry satellites and other spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons to Low Earth Orbit.


Source: SlashGear



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Charred?
By ct760ster on 5/31/2012 11:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
It's only me or does the picture posted with the article, could possibly, show some damage to the hull of the capsule, kind of like an inverted 'V' shape, also the burnout seems that consumed almost all of the thermal protecting coating https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenolic_impregnated... that was painted on the capsule.




RE: Charred?
By SilentRunning on 6/1/2012 1:08:00 AM , Rating: 2
The "charring" looks to be cosmetic, but there is all kinds of damage on the left hand side of the capsule. Seam separation, the diagonal crack and a nice big chunk missing near the top.


RE: Charred?
By mcnabney on 6/1/2012 9:40:38 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not saying that it looks like the capsule was hit by a laser beam due to the damage and linear slice into the metal, but I'm having a hard time imagining what did that.


RE: Charred?
By nafhan on 6/1/2012 10:54:16 AM , Rating: 2
I looked this up because I thought the same thing. It's apparently related to the parachute deployment system, and "the crack" is visible in some of the photos that they took from the space station. So... not a problem. I think there is a picture that shows it here (flickr stream for ESA astronaut's who's currently on the ISS and took a bunch of pics): http://www.flickr.com/photos/astro_andre/
Can't get to it right now, though. So, I may have seen the pic somewhere else. Still, that link is worth checking out just for some really nice pictures of the Dragon mission.


RE: Charred?
By geddarkstorm on 6/1/2012 1:00:29 PM , Rating: 2
You're absolutely right. The picture that shows this protruding seam in the spacecraft as seen from the ISS is here http://www.flickr.com/photos/astro_andre/727224233...

You can see that is it NOT a crack, it is actually a raised element out of the hull. Creates a nice optical illusion though.


RE: Charred?
By geddarkstorm on 6/1/2012 1:02:43 PM , Rating: 2
Thankfully, as below, we've found photos that show this is not damage and not a crack. It's an optical illusion. That's actually a long raised part of the normal hull. Again, check http://www.flickr.com/photos/astro_andre/727224233...

The capsule also had equipment on it being returned from the ISS. So that material being intact proves the integrity of the vessel. NASA would never agree otherwise. And besides, if the ship cracked on re-entry, it would have been destroyed.


RE: Charred?
By ameriman on 6/1/2012 1:02:11 PM , Rating: 2
That is NOT a crack in the side. Those grooves are just used to house the parachute lines, which are pulled away at deployment.


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