SpaceX Dragon fulfills first commercial cargo flight
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft has returned to Earth last Sunday, after a three-week flight to the International Space Station, completing its first ever commercial cargo mission.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the unmanned ship came down in the Pacific Ocean at 3:22 p.m., about 250 miles off the coast of Baja California.
It was launched October 7, the first of a dozen planned missions planned until 2016, to the space station under a contract with NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services.
The cargo craft brought around 900 pounds of supplies to the station and came back with nearly 1,700 pounds of load, including crew supplies, scientific research and hardware.
Some cargo, such as the blood samples from ISS astronauts, has been given to NASA which hopes to study the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. The rest would be returned to Texas with the capsule.
The Dragon capsule, which has been hauled onto a ship and was transported to shore Sunday afternoon, is now on its way to Los Angeles. It would be returned to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, after it has been prepared for processing.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that “with today’s mission, we’ve closed the loop and demonstrated that American industry is ready to step up to the plate and meet our needs for transport to low Earth orbit.”
Bolden added in a statement that “this work will transform our relationship to space, save money and create jobs. America remains the leader in space and technology development.”
SpaceX CEO and chief technical officer Elon Musk announced that the historic mission restorated America’s ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo.
“The reliability of SpaceX’s technology and the strength of our partnership with NASA provide a strong foundation for future missions and achievements to come,” Musk said.
It was reported that a slight problem occurred during the mission’s launch, an engine failure resulted to a rapid loss of pressure and Falcon 9′s flight computer quickly declared shutdown.
Despite one engine breaking down 79 seconds after liftoff, the remaining eight engines sustained the craft which steered for the space station while flight computers carried out the important adjustments. They are now working to find out why the engine failed.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and the Dragon spacecraft have been chosen by NASA to resupply the space station in 2008 after retiring its fleet of space shuttles.
Another company that is also under contract with NASA, Orbital Sciences, will be launching its own demonstration flight to the space station within months.