After a month in space, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule makes re-entry.
This is the third and last report in our series about SpaceX’s dragon capsule, which blasted off back in February with a mission to bring supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch on February 19th marked the first time a private company made use of NASA’s launch facilities to reach space. The Dragon, which was at the top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, took off a day late, after technical issues caused a scrubbed launch the day before. Once in space, the Dragon capsule, originally designed for human flight, but currently being used to move cargo, began moving closer to the ISS, where it docked five days later.
The Dragon capsule remained docked to the ISS for nearly a month, during which time the six person crew of the ISS proceeded to unload two tonnes of food, water and scientific equipment for NASA. After this, the capsule was loaded with around 1800 kg of research samples from experiments conducted in the space station’s micro-gravity environment. What makes the Dragon unique is that it is the only capsule of its kind capable of bringing samples back to Earth.
The ISS’s robot arm released the capsule at 0900 GMT yesterday for its return trip to Earth. While getting to the ISS is an affair that often takes several days, the return trip took just seven hours, with the capsule making re-entry and finally splashing down off the coast of Mexico at 1600 GMT. The final descent was slowed by the capsule’s three large parachutes.
“Today we said goodbye to the #Dragon!” tweeted French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who arrived on the ISS in November. “She is taking part of us back to the ground with her – important scientific samples, some from the crew!”