Science

SpaceX unpiloted craft returns safely to Earth

SpaceX unpiloted craft returns safely to Earth

In this image taken from NASA Television, SpaceX's swanky new crew capsule undocks from the International Space Station Friday, March 8, 2019.

The uncrewed Dragon launched from the Kennedy Space Centre on March 2 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, docking with the International Space Station 27 hours later.

If all goes according to plan, it will wrap up the first complete test mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which is expected to carry its first astronauts into orbit by the middle of this year. SpaceX's unmanned Crew Dragon capsule landed off the coast Florida after a trip to the International Space Station. The capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at around 5:45 a.m. Friday. "This flight really sets us up well for the rest of the year". It docked to the ISS without a hitch last Sunday.

Crew Dragon carried a passenger on this flight test - a lifelike test device named Ripley, which was outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in the spacecraft.

The '"Demo-1" was the first private mission to the ISS, and the first time a space vessel capable of carrying humans had been launched from U.S. soil in eight years. That includes testing an upgraded parachute system to land the craft more gently than its cargo version.

That completes its short mission to the ISS that put the module created to carry humans to space to test for the first time. This will be a historic moment for NASA too, as a successful Demo-1 will bring them closer to once again, sending people in space, a feat not achieved from American soil in nearly a decade.

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Little Earth and the new supplies will stay on the space station, while Ripley and about 300 pounds of return cargo, including a broken spacesuit part, are headed back home on Crew Dragon. The program is meant to bring NASA and private companies together to launch United States astronauts to and from space without the aid of other countries space agencies.

Crew Dragon's departure burns quickly moved it outside the station's imaginary 200-meter-wide Keep Out Sphere, and in roughly 20 minutes, it was outside the 4-by-2 kilometer approach ellipsoid. "Hypersonic reentry is probably my biggest concern", he said. "And then we can use the tax-payer resources that are bestowed upon us to do exploration, to go further, to go back to the Moon sustainably", said Nasa chief Jim Bridenstine.

NASA TV footage showed the capsule gently drifting into the ocean, its decent slowed by its four main orange and white parachutes, which folded into the water around it as boats sped toward the site.

The successful test mission marked an important moment for the USA space program's plans to restart manned space flights.

To end its reliance on Russian Federation - a situation that many in the spaceflight community considered an embarrassment - NASA in 2014 awarded SpaceX and Boeing a combined $6.8-billion contract to build a pair of spacecraft to fill that gap.

NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co $6.8 billion in all to build competing rocket and capsule systems to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil, something not possible since the U.S. Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.