CANAVERAL: An unmanned capsule from Elon Musk’s SpaceX splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean on Friday morning after a short-term stay on the International Space Station, capping the first orbital test mission in NASA’s long-delayed quest to resume human space flight from US soil later this year.
After a five-day mission on the orbital outpost, Crew Dragon autonomously detached about 2.30am EST (0730 GMT) on Friday and sped back to earth reaching hypersonic speeds before an 8.45am EST (1345 GMT) splashdown in the Atlantic, about 322km off the Florida coast.
A SpaceX rocket launched the 16-foot-tall capsule from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida last Saturday.
The first-of-its-kind mission, ahead of SpaceX’s crewed test flight slated for June, brought 400 pounds of test equipment to the space station, including a dummy named Ripley, outfitted with sensors around its head, neck, and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human.
The space station’s three-member crew greeted the capsule last Sunday, with US astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques entering Crew Dragon’s cabin to carry out air quality tests and inspections.