Elon Musk's SpaceX capsule splashes down off Florida coast

Posted March 13, 2019

The Crew Dragon capsule successfully detached from the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:30 am EST.

On Saturday, March 2, at 2:49 a.m. EST, one of the company's Falcon 9 rockets lit up the pre-dawn sky, lofting a Crew Dragon spacecraft created to carry humans-but carrying only a stuffed globe and a manikin named Ripley outfitted with a space suit and suite of sensors-to the International Space Station (ISS).

Live footage from Nasa showed the capsule's main parachutes opened without a hitch, completing a mission to demonstrate that it could reliably and safely carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). While SpaceX has flown many missions to the ISS with its cargo Dragon vehicle, Crew Dragon is a much different space ship.

Company founder Elon Musk said during a post-launch news conference last Saturday that the capsule's hypersonic entry, along with launch, rendezvous and docking, posed the greatest risks.

Crew Dragon is coming back to Earth: What to know

"We have a significant amount of training we need to go through that will walk through all the various phases of flight", Behnken said of the coming months.

Separately, Boeing is scheduled to carry out an unmanned demo mission in April of its Starliner capsule.

Before the undocking, ISS crew members closed and locked the Dragon's hatch on Thursday afternoon.

NASA's current schedule calls for an in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon, using the same capsule as flown on Demo-1, in June.

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The flight is a milestone for Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as they attempt to end U.S. dependence on Russian Federation for astronaut shuttles to the space station. If all goes well, the Crew Dragon will be put to work ferrying up to seven astronauts at a time back and forth to the ISS.

Nasa has already selected its first astronauts to fly aboard a crewed Dragon.

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. Soon, if all goes as planned, SpaceX and Boeing will compete for those contracts and launch the manned-missions from USA soil.

The U.S. has relied on Russian Federation to launch its astronauts since 2011 when the space shuttle program ended.

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Ultimately, Nasa will be purchasing seats in both the SpaceX and Boeing systems to take its astronauts to the ISS.

- First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station. "That's mainly because we always want, in case there are issues with either system, that we have an integrated crew".

NASA has been unable to fly its own astronauts since the final Space Shuttle retired in 2011, after which the space agency turned to the private sector to develop the next generation of human spaceflight hardware.

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

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