The Crew Dragon capsule, built by Hawthorne-based SpaceX in an effort to re-start American astronaut launches, splashed down Friday morning in the Atlantic Ocean, about six hours after it successfully detached from the International Space Station.
The capsule’s main parachutes deployed at 5:42 a.m. and the module landed in the Atlantic Ocean at 5:45 a.m.
SpaceX’s recovery ship “Go Searcher” was staged in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off the Florida coast as Crew Dragon landed.
After the splashdown, teams aboard the ship and working to employ a crane to lift the spacecraft out of the ocean. Once recovered, Crew Dragon will be returned to Port Canaveral, Fla.
The unmanned capsule, carrying about 400 pounds of supplies and equipment, was launched into space as a historic test mission late March 1 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, and it docked with the International Space Station early Sunday morning.
Almost five days later, astronauts at the Space Station closed the hatch on the capsule, according to NASA. The capsule undocked from the station at 11:30 p.m. Thursday, beginning its relatively short trip back to Earth. The detachment aired on a live online feed on schedule, and SpaceX Tweeted: “Separation confirmed!”
Crew Dragon’s maiden flight into space is a major milestone in American space flight. The United States has not launched astronauts into space since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011. SpaceX and Boeing have both now contracted with NASA to conduct astronaut launches, with Crew Dragon the first capsule actually launched into space on a test mission.
Assuming there are no glitches in the balance of the mission, SpaceX is tentatively expected to launch a pair of astronauts into space aboard Crew Dragon this summer, possibly July. NASA has already chosen astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley for the historic mission.
The only passenger on Crew Dragon during the current mission is a sensor-laden mannequin named Ripley, dubbed in honor of Sigourney Weaver’s character in the “Alien” sci-fi film series.
After last week’s launch of Crew Dragon, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the mission “marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.”