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SpaceX crew capsule ends test flight with ocean splashdown

SpaceX crew capsule ends test flight with ocean splashdown

Elon Musk and his aerospace company SpaceX made history on Friday morning when its Dragon spacecraft splashed into the Atlantic Ocean after a successful five-day trip to the International Space Station.

The capsule will de-orbit and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 a.m. After undocking from the space station, the Crew Dragon will fly for about 5 hours before it begins to slow down in order to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.

The test mission was a crucial milestone in the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Commercial Crew Program ahead of SpaceX's first crewed test flight slated to launch in July with U.S. astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

The first-of-a-kind mission brought 400 pounds of test equipment to the space station, including a dummy named Ripley outfitted with sensors around its head, neck, and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human.

First autonomous docking of a US spacecraft to the International Space Station. To date, all Dragon cargo craft have instead berthed with the ISS-slowly approaching the space station and waiting for a crew member to grab the ship with a robotic arm.

The splashdown was the final test on this mission for Crew Dragon, during a flight test for a capsule that could become the first US craft to carry astronauts into space since the shuttle program was phased out in 2011.

SpaceX's swanky new crew capsule has undocked from the International Space Station and is headed toward an old-fashioned splashdown.

The Dragon has returned to Earth.

Waiting in the wings is Boeing and its CST-100 Starliner capsule, being prepared for an unpiloted test flight this spring and its initial piloted launch this fall.

ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station 1
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain

What's at stake: While NASA hasn't reported any issues for the first part of Crew Dragon's test flight but the spacecraft must also do well through the descent.

But the capsule was also responsible for delivering supplies to the International Space Station.

The crewless mission, called Demo-1, was SpaceX's chance to show it can build a spaceship that can carry people.

The mission went off without a hitch and is set to revolutionise NASA's future missions.

Indeed it is. Only NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos have ever delivered astronauts to the space station.

Despite the distractions, Friday's landing appeared to be another triumph for SpaceX, and validation of years of work. Musk said, "That could potentially cause a roll instability on re-entry". "We've run simulations a thousand times, but this is a possibility".

But after this week's SpaceX flight, if post-mission review determines the flight had no issues, we could see astronauts climb aboard the Crew Dragon by the end of the year.

Privately owned SpaceX, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp, was founded in 2002 by Musk, who is also a co-founder of electric auto maker Tesla Inc. NASA crew must train with the Russian crew for a period of time before launching under the agreement.

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