SpaceX retrieves reused ISS capsule
SpaceX retrieved a capsule Monday that landed in the Pacific Ocean becoming the first private spacecraft to be reused to shuttle cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).
The company made history when its Dragon capsule splashed down off the Californian coast shortly after 5 a.m. local time (noon GMT). The craft had just successfully finished its second resupply mission to the ISS. The first came in 2014.
"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed—completing first re-flight of a commercial spacecraft to and from the Space Station," the company tweeted shortly after the capsule's landing parachutes deployed.
The news was celebrated by SpaceX, which has long pushed for an age of reusable spacecraft. By reusing capsules, space agencies could save millions of dollars each year.
The capsule was launched in early June and spent 36 hours hurtling into space before docking on the ISS. The craft remained docked for about a month while astronauts unloaded crucial supplies and equipment.
Astronauts then filled the capsule with items to be transported back to Earth. In the early hours of Monday, the capsule was detached from the ISS and fell about five hours to Earth's surface.
"Congrats team for a successful splashdown and great mission!" NASA astronaut Jack Fischer tweeted alongside a photograph he took of the capsule gliding toward Earth's atmosphere.
The predawn splashdown was also the first time SpaceX has successfully landed a craft in the dark.
The craft was then collected and shipped back to SpaceX headquarters near Los Angeles. NASA will study the payload sent by the ISS astronauts.
The space agency said that would swab some of the returned cargo, including research samples and used ISS hardware, for microbes known as extremophiles --bacteria and fungi that can inhabit conditions normally hostile to life such as those found on the ISS.