'Special Delivery': SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Into The Pacific

By Pierre Dumont , Mar 26, 2013 04:25 PM EDT

The SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California on Tuesday March 26, ending its roughly three- week trip to the International Space Station and carrying 2,668 pounds of science samples.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule is the only supply ship able to make a two-way delivery. It will be shipped to Los Angeles, where it will arrive on Wednesday night, and then be taken by truck to Texas to be unloaded.

"Special delivery! Dragon now being recovered in the Pacific," SpaceX tweeted.

The capsule carried science samples from physical science investigations, human research, biology and biotechnology studies and education activities for NASA. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station released the capsule using the station's robotic arm. SpaceX launched the capsule to the station on March 1 using its Falcon 9 rocket. It carried over 1,200 pounds of cargo including food and scientific experiments to be conducted aboard the station.

"Sad to see the Dragon go," said astronaut Thomas Marshburn to Mission Control. "Performed her job beautifully. Heading back to her lair. Wish her all the best for the splashdown today."

The Dragon capsule made its landing using NASA-style parachutes. According to SpaceX, the capsule arrived without any complications.

SpaceX ran into some trouble with the launch of the Dragon capsule at the beginning of the month, when three of four thruster pods were inhibited during the Falcon 9 rocket launch. The issue was resolved, however, and the Dragon capsule made it safely to the Space Station.

The Dragon capsule's arrival at the station marks the second under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. The next flight is scheduled for this fall. SpaceX is run by millionaire Elon Musk, whose other plans for the company include a possible commercial spaceport in Texas. On Wednesday March 20 the company announced the readiness of its next-generation rocket engine, the Merlin 1D, which will likely power a commercial space launch this summer.

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