Splashdown! SpaceX Dragon Returns to Earth

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A Space Exploration Technologies’ Dragon cargo capsule parachuted into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, wrapping up a second supply run to the International Space Station for NASA.

The capsule splashed down into the Pacific Ocean about 225 miles west of Baja California at 12:34 p.m. EDT.

“Recovery ship just heard the sonic booms from Dragon re-entry,” SpaceX founder and chief executive posted on Twitter as the capsule reached the final leg of a 5.5-hour journey back to Earth.

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Data relayed from the capsule showed its main parachutes deployed as planned. Personnel aboard a SpaceX recovery ship waiting in the Pacific then reported seeing the parachutes.

“Recovery ship has secured Dragon,” Musk wrote at 1 p.m. “Cargo looks A-OK.”

The capsule returns with nearly 2,700 pounds of science experiments and equipment no longer needed aboard the station.

With the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet, the SpaceX Dragon capsules are the only way to return large amounts of cargo from the outpost, a $100 billion project of 15 nations.

SpaceX’s next cargo run is slated for September.

NASA also has hired a second company, Orbital Sciences Corp., for station resupply missions. Orbital plans to test-launch its new Antares rocket as early as April 16 from a new launch pad on Wallops Island, Virginia.

Image: The view from a SpaceX recovery ship of the Dragon’s parachutes. Credit: SpaceX