Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft has returned home. At 3:22 p.m. the capsule splashed down a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico. With the safe return of the Dragon, the first private cargo delivery flight to be launched from the United States has reached a successful conclusion.
SpaceX is contracted to conduct eleven more resupply flights to the International Space Station (ISS) under the Commercial Resupply Services contract.
“With a big splash in the Pacific Ocean today, we are reminded American ingenuity is alive and well and keeping our great nation at the cutting edge of innovation and technology development,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Just a little over one year after we retired the Space Shuttle, we have completed the first cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. Not with a government owned and operated system, but rather with one built by a private firm — an American company that is creating jobs and helping keep the U.S. the world leader in space as we transition to the next exciting chapter in exploration. Congratulations to SpaceX and the NASA team that supported them and made this historic mission possible.”
The Dragon used on the CRS-1 mission, was loaded with approximately 1,995 lbs worth of cargo. About 260 lbs of this was crew supplies, 390 lbs of critical materials that will support numerous experiments on the space station.
With the Dragon safely back home, it will be transported via boat to a part located Los Angeles, Calif. Once there, it will be readied for the trip back to SpaceX’s test facility located in McGregor, Texas. Upon arrival, the cargo that the station’s crew packed the capsule-shaped spacecraft will be unloaded (this excludes some cargo that was removed at the port). The cargo will be returned to NASA and includes a GLACIER freezer that contains research samples that were collected on the ISS.
This marks the first time that the Dragon supported the return of frozen samples back to Earth. This ability is viewed as crucial to supporting science onboard the ISS and returns a portion of the capabilities that was lost at the end of the space shuttle era.
Dragon was launched to the ISS on Oct. 7, 2012. This was the fourth flight of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and the second flight of the Dragon to the orbiting laboratory. This month’s launch was not without its problems however. Launch occurred at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at 8:34 p.m. EDT.
On ascent, some 79 seconds after launch, one of the Falcon 9’s engines was destroyed after an anomaly forced the Falcon 9’s computer to shut it down (the Falcon 9 compensated by burning its surviving eight Merlin engines longer than scheduled).
Video courtesy SpaceX, slowed version posted by SpaceKSCBlog
This failure caused the Orbcomm satellite that were deployed from the launch vehicle’s second stage to enter the improper orbit. Both satellites reentered the Earth’s atmosphere a few days later and the Orbcomm company has announced that the mission was a total loss.