A few hours ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft ended its CRS-5 (Cargo Resupply Service 5) mission for NASA splashing down without problems in the Pacific Ocean about 400 km (about 260 miles) off the coast of California. The Dragon left the International Space Station yesterday evening, American time.
Shortly after splashing down, the Dragon was recovered by the SpaceX boats that will transport it to the coast. The cargo brought back to Earth should be delivered to NASA today. The Dragon spacecraft reached the International Space Station on January 12, 2015.
The Dragon spacecraft brought back to Earth nearly 1,700 kg (about 3,7000 lbs) of cargo, including various scientific experiments, including 17 student projects, and biological samples. Part of the samples is contained in the freezers because it’s necessary to keep them at low temperatures. Some items in the pressurized module were transported to Earth for repairs.
For example, a spacesuit had problems that couldn’t be solved on the International Space Station. It will be checked up by the engineers who take care of spacesuits and repaired. At that point, it will be sent back to the Station on the first cargo spacecraft in which they can find a place for it.
SpaceX is the only American company to have a spaceship able to bring back to Earth intact cargo so the Dragon’s missions are really important for NASA. After the October 2014 mishap to Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft, the Dragon is the only American cargo spacecraft currently active. It will take several more months for the Cygnus to resume its missions so the next Dragon launch could already take place as early as April 2015.
SpaceX seems to have solved the problems that had occurred in the first missions of the spacecraft Dragon making supplies to the International Space Station a routine activity. However, the problem with the Antares rocket that led to the destruction of the Cygnus spacecraft reminded everyone that in space missions there’s still some degree of risk. Surely, Elon Musk and his SpaceX crew know it very well.