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PICS: SpaceX's Dragon completes 1st commercial flight

Last updated on: October 29, 2012 14:32 IST

PICS: SpaceX's Dragon completes 1st commercial flight

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The unmanned SpaceX capsule returned to earth on Monday after successfully delivering its first commercial payload to the International Space Station commanded by Indian-American astronaut Sunita Williams.

The Dragon spacecraft parachuted into the Pacific at 12:52 pm after an 18-day mission to resupply the station with payload including hardware, supplies, and a GLACIER freezer packed with scientific samples.

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Image: The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured just prior to being released by the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to allow it to head toward a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean
Photographs: NASA

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PICS: SpaceX's Dragon completes 1st commercial flight

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The capsule made a safe splashdown in the Pacific waters successfully and is now being recovered by a team of divers, United States-based SpaceX said in a statement.

"This historic mission signifies the restoration of America's ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo," said SpaceX Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk.

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Image: The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured just prior to being released by the International Space Station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to allow it to head toward a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean
Photographs: NASA

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PICS: SpaceX's Dragon completes 1st commercial flight

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"The reliability of SpaceX's technology and the strength of our partnership with National Aeronautics and Space Administration provide a strong foundation for future missions and achievements to come," he said.

The mission -- the first of 12 planned trips in SpaceX's $1.6 billion contract with US space agency NASA -- is a milestone for American efforts to privatise the space industry, aimed at reducing costs and spreading them among a wider group than governments alone.

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Image: With darkness, earth's horizon and thin line of atmosphere forming a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station
Photographs: NASA

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PICS: SpaceX's Dragon completes 1st commercial flight

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The capsule delivered about 450 kilogrammes of cargo to the space station and is taking home 758 kilogrammes of supplies, hardware and scientific tests and results.

Dragon is the only craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies to earth, and this mission marks the first time since the space shuttle that NASA has been able to return research samples for analysis.

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Image: The SpaceX splashes down in the Pacific Ocean
Photographs: NASA
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PICS: SpaceX's Dragon completes 1st commercial flight

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The crewmates on-board the International Space Station are astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, Russian cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy and NASA astronaut Kevin Ford, all flight engineers.

The SpaceX recovery team is now transporting Dragon by boat to a port near Los Angeles, where early cargo will be delivered to NASA.

The mission, called CRS-1, began on October 7, when the Falcon 9 rocket launched Dragon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


Image: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Picture taken on October 7, 2012
Photographs: Rick Wetherington/Tim Powers/Tim Terry/NASA

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