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SpaceX Dragon returns from first commercial mission

By

October 28, 2012

Artist's concept of Dragon reentering the atmosphere (Image: SpaceX)

Artist's concept of Dragon reentering the atmosphere (Image: SpaceX)

Image Gallery (8 images)

History’s first commercial space mission ended today as SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth. The 21-day flight to the International Space Station (ISS) ended when the unmanned cargo ship splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 12:22 p.m. PDT. The mission, designated CRS-1, is the first of twelve 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.

On Saturday, at 11:00 AM PDT, the Mission 33 ISS crew closed Dragon’s hatch and yesterday evening depressurized the vestibule between Dragon and the station. At 3:55 AM PDT the spacecraft was detached from the space station and the crew eased it out to release position with the station’s robotic arm. After a last minute safety inspection, the astronauts released Dragon at 6:29 AM PDT. The spacecraft then executed a series of thruster firings to carry it away from the space station and it began its de-orbit burn at 11:28 AM PDT.

Dragon space capsule being released by the ISS's robotic arm (Image: NASA)

Once the burn was completed, Dragon jettisoned its service module and solar arrays at 11:46 AM PDT before it turned to present its PICA-X heat shield forward as it struck the Earth’s atmosphere. At an altitude of 13,700 meters (45,000 feet), it deployed two drogue parachutes to slow its descent and at 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), it deployed the three main parachutes. Splashdown occurred in the Pacific ocean with a SpaceX recovery ship standing by.

The Dragon capsule was carrying 759 kilograms (1,673 lb) of cargo including frozen blood and urine samples collected from the astronaut crews, but which were stranded on the ISS after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. The spacecraft will be taken ashore in Southern California where time-sensitive 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.

The video below shows a timelapse view of Dragon leaving the ISS.

Source: SpaceX

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
4 Comments

Bloody awesome SpaceX. well done!!!!

FrankR
28th October, 2012 @ 06:29 pm PDT

If 'commercial mission' includes tourism, well it's not the first one, as the Russians have been doing that for long.

But it's the first commercial cargo mission, no doubt about that. :)

cachurro
28th October, 2012 @ 09:16 pm PDT

@cachurro

Commercial Mission means a non-governmental entity, or commercial company, performed a mission to resupply the ISS. Even though Russian has been sending tourist up, it was still a government operation.

Good Job SpaceX.

Silverbird
29th October, 2012 @ 05:36 am PDT

Clearly someone with a sense of humor...or lack of common sense...came up with this naming convention the CRS missions...really?

Techo Naut
2nd November, 2012 @ 07:31 am PDT
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