Earlier today the Dragon space capsule departed from the International Space Station and began its trip back down from the heavens. The Dragon capsule spent 5 days connected to the ISS and it was able to deliver supplies and is returning nearly 1,400 pounds of old space station equipment and some science samples, a little more than it took up. Because it is a test flight, NASA did not want to load it with anything valuable.
Last week SpaceX became the first private company to connect to the ISS in a feat that could change spaceflight forever. This is the final testing point for the Dragon and will mean that going forward NASA can further trust SpaceX with experiments and hopefully will be putting people up there soon because the Dragon is capable of moving both cargo and people. In fact, Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, expects to have astronauts riding his Dragons in three or four years.
The targeted splashdown zone is 560 miles southwest of Los Angeles and it will parachute down like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft did way back in the 60’s and 70’s.
The next Dragon supply mission will be in September and a Falcon 9 rocket is already at Cape Canaveral awaiting launch. This will be part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract through NASA. The resupply contract for the International Space Station has it making 12 runs in total. Mix that in with the news yesterday that SpaceX signed a deal to launch satellites into space, and the future looks very bright for them.
photo courtesy of SpaceX