SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule made its way on the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, completing a NASA demonstration mission that paves the way for the resumption of manned space flights from the US.
After a few hours of uncertainty, the Dragon spacecraft landed at 8:45 am (1345 GMT) some 230 miles (370 kilometers) off the coast of Florida.
The seven-seat capsule carried its “crew” of a single test dummy back to Earth. NASA footage displayed the capsule adrift towards the ocean with decent slowed by its four main parachutes.
Awaiting analysis of flight data, showed that SpaceX had passed its test from beginning to end, a result that drew widespread praise.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine praised the splashdown, saying it “marked another milestone in a new era of human spaceflight.”
The head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos and former president Barack Obama also noted and gave congratulatory remarks over social media.
Launched back on March 2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dragon docked at ISS the next day before successfully undocking Friday around 250 miles over Sudan airspace.
Its re-entry tested the vehicle’s shielding for the first time, and Musk earlier stated that the phase was “probably my biggest concern.” As what’s described as a “toasted marshmallow” in the words of SpaceX engineer Kate Tice, the heat shield sustained.
Although Dragon’s crew member was a dummy named Ripley, the mission sets stage for a possible manned flight possibly for two US astronauts for a return trip to the ISS.
Distinctly, Boeing plans to carry out an unmanned demo mission in April of its Starliner capsule.
But until SpaceX and Boeing are certified by NASA, Russia will continue to be the only country taking personnel to the ISS. NASA purchase tickets for its astronauts, who train with their Russian cosmonaut counterparts.