SpaceX capsule completes successful first mission

The unmanned SpaceX capsule returned to Earth today 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 0052 IST after an 18-day mission to resupply the station with payload including hardware, supplies, and a GLACIER freezer packed with scientific samples.

The capsule made a safe splashdown in the Pacific waters successfully and is now being recovered by a team of divers, US-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 CEO and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk.

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

The mission - the first of 12 planned trips in SpaceX's USD 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.

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.

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.

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