SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down After Delivery to Space Station - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down After Delivery to Space Station

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(NBC) -- SpaceX's Dragon commercial cargo ship successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, bringing nearly 2 tons of science experiments and old equipment home from the International Space Station. After a one-month visit, the robotic SpaceX cargo ship was set loose for its return to Earth earlier in the day. Astronauts released it using the space station's robot arm as the craft zoomed more than 260 miles (420 kilometers) above the South Pacific.

"It's moving away," reported NASA astronaut Steven Swanson, the station's commander.

"Nicely done," said Mission Control.

Swanson later added: "Very nice to have a vehicle that can take your science, equipment and maybe someday even humans back to Earth."

Loaded with 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) of gear, the Dragon capsule splashed down into the Pacific at the end of three giant parachutes around 3:05 p.m. ET. A recovery ship was due to bring the capsule back to shore from the target zone, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) off Mexico's Baja California peninsula.

The Dragon rocketed to the space station on April 18 with a full load and arrived at the orbiting lab two days later, on Easter Sunday.

SpaceX's Dragon is the only robotic supply ship capable of safely returning items from the space station. The others burn up on re-entry. This was the fourth Dragon capsule to bring back station goods.

NASA is paying California-based SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to make station deliveries. SpaceX also is competing for the right to ferry station astronauts, perhaps as early as 2017.

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