Marking an end to its landmark journey to the International Space Station (ISS), the Dragon capsule by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) made a safe splashdown on the Pacific ocean, yesterday, at approximately 8:42 AM Pacific/11:42 AM Eastern time, revealed SpaceX in an official post. The SpaceX Dragon capsule is the first ever commercial vehicle to have undertaken a space operation, and hence had the world’s eyes on it. After its splashdown, the SpaceX blog revealed that the capsule would be recovered by boats and begin its trip back to land, soon after. It was on May 22nd that the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft made a successful lift off at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Although, the Dragon capsule made a safe splashdown, its start was one marred by hiccups. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule, was originally scheduled for a lift off on May 19, but had to be aborted just seconds after the engines ignited, since the computers recorded higher pressure readings than was allowed.
Prior to Dragon's final ISS approach, it underwent a series of system tests on Thursday. On the same day, the capsule also managed a successful fly-under of the space station and got approval from NASA to proceed on Friday. During its own approach to the ISS, the Dragon capsule also carried out a series of detailed test maneuvers. These tests were crucial to the Dragon capsule, since this way it would demonstrate its capabilities of maneuvering and even aborting before making the final approach to the ISS and gradually moving into a 65-foot (20-meter) “berthing box”. Once Dragon reached this berthing box, NASA astronaut Don Pettit used the robotic arm at 9:56 a.m. EDT and managed to grip it. Further, European Space Agency's astronaut Andre Kuipers “installed the capsule on the bottom of the station's Harmony node at 11:52 a.m. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba completed berthing operations by bolting the Dragon to Harmony at 12:02 p.m.”
The Dragon capsule's visit to the ISS was to deliver 1,014 pounds of supplies to the station, which included non-critical experiments, food, clothing and technology. Crew members were required to open the capsule's hatch to unload the cargo over the course of four days and also loaded the Dragon capsule with 1,014 pounds of supplies of hardware and cargo that were no longer required onboard the spacecraft. On May 30th, Dragon and station hatches were closed. And finally, on May 31, the crew members of Expedition 31 detached Dragon from Harmony node, “maneuver it to a 33-foot release point and un-grapple the capsule”. The Dragon then deorbited, which roughly was four hours after it the station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off
Explaining the goal of the mission, NASA had on their website stated that, “The goal of the mission is to launch a SpaceX Dragon capsule to the International Space Station to demonstrate cargo delivery using privately built spacecraft. It will be a landmark accomplishment because no privately constructed spacecraft has docked with the orbiting laboratory.“
According to a post on the SpaceX blog, this was their second demonstration flight “under a 2006 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA to develop the capability to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station.“
After Dragon's successful splashdown, at 11:00 AM Pacific/2:00 PM Eastern, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk joined NASA Space Station Program Manager Mike Suffredini and NASA COTS Program Manager Alan Lindenmoyer for a press conference to discuss the day's exciting events.
The post on NASA revealing the Dragon's feat, quoted Elon Musk, the Founder, CEO and Chief Designer for the Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), as saying “We are hoping to continue working with NASA and hopefully flying crew within three years. This was a crucial step and makes the chances of becoming a multi planet species more likely.“