With being the first to re-fly a commercial spacecraft to and from the International Space Station, SpaceX now has another achievement under its belt to boast about. In this mission, it used the Dragon capsule, which was also used during a previous trip to carry materials and supplies to the orbital facility for scientific experiments.
This Dragon capsule was originally launched in September 2014. On June 3, it was refurbished and lifted off from the Launch Complex-39A of the Kennedy Space Center, carrying more than 4,100 pounds of cargo. After docking with the International Space Station about 36 hours after launch, Dragon spent nearly a month at the station, where its payload was unloaded.
Early morning, at about 5:00 a.m. EDT on Monday, the spacecraft decoupled from the International Space Station and made three departure burns to start with its de-orbit. A few hours later, it finished its de-orbit burn and re-entered the atmosphere of Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of the California coast, as planned, at around 8:14 AM EDT.
Dragon Becomes First Cargo Spacecraft to Re-enter without Burning up
The successful splashdown is an indication that re-flying spacecraft is possible, a vision that SpaceX had for a long time. Reusable spacecraft will also help in dramatically reducing the costs of commercial space operations. So far, Dragon has been the only cargo spacecraft to re-enter Earth’s orbit without burning up. H-11 Transfer Vehicle of Japan and Russia’s Progress, Orbital ATK’s Cygnus failed to complete their returns to the planet.