SpaceX's Dragon Heads Back to Earth

Cargo ship successfully completes first mission to space station
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2012 7:27 AM CDT
Updated May 31, 2012 7:39 AM CDT
SpaceX's Dragon Heads Back to Earth
This framegrab image from NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon capsule as it is positioned for release from the International Space Station, May 31, 2012.   (AP Photo/NASA)

SpaceX's much-celebrated supply ship "Dragon" departed from the International Space Station this morning, setting course for a Pacific Ocean splashdown, just off California's Baja peninsula. The station's Canadian-built robot arm unbolted the capsule at about 4am EDT, then held it in place for a full orbit before dropping it at the designated location at 5:49am, CNET reports.

Eleven minutes later, the capsule was outside of the space station's "safety zone," meaning that SpaceX has full responsibility for the Dragon for the rest of the flight. The capsule expects to fire off its rockets for a final push into Earth's atmosphere at 10:51am, deploy its parachutes at 11:35, and hit the water at about 11:44. If all goes well, SpaceX will be cleared to make routine supply runs to the station from now on. (More SpaceX stories.)

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