CAPE CANAVERAL (May 31, 2012)--The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is home after its historic five-day supply mission to the International Space Station.
The unmanned capsule, which was launched atop a rocket tested extensively at the company’s facility in McGregor west of Waco, splashed down right on schedule Thursday morning in the Pacific Ocean, about 600 miles southwest of Los Angeles.
The capsule is carrying a load of science samples and old station equipment.
A fleet of boats was in position, ready to receive the Dragon.
It will take a few days to transport the capsule by barge to Los Angeles and from there it will be trucked to the SpaceX facility in McGregor for unloading and inspection, the company said.
The capsule was released from the orbiting lab earlier Thursday morning.
SpaceX is the first private company to send a cargo ship to the International Space Station and it’s now on the verge of becoming the only supplier to return major items.
The government-provided cargo vessels of Russia, Europe and Japan burn up on descent and NASA lost the capability when the shuttle fleet was retired last year.
NASA is handing over routine orbital flights to private business so it can concentrate on grander destinations like asteroids and Mars and SpaceX is leading the charge to fill the vacuum.