SpaceX said its Dragon cargo vessel successfully made re-entry on Saturday morning after spending more than a month docked at the International Space Station, carrying over two tons of cargo including scientific gear, experimental manufacturing hardware, and live laboratory mice.
According to Space.com, it was SpaceX’s 13th overall resupply run to the station. The Dragon spacecraft began detaching from the station’s Harmony module at around 4:58am ET before the station’s robot arm moved it to a safe distance. It then fired its thrusters for re-entry and was eventually recovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California at 10:39am ET.
Other items on board included trash and gear no longer needed by the ISS crew.
Though a variety of craft including Russian Progress ships, Japanese HTV craft and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus deliver supplies to the ISS, CBS noted, SpaceX’s Dragon is currently the only automated cargo craft servicing the ISS which is able to safely deliver materials back to the ground.
Per TechCrunch, the landing was this specific Dragon capsules’s second successful round trip to the ISS. The module originally made it to the ISS on board one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, the first time in which the company had reused both the first stage rocket and the payload from prior missions. SpaceX’s reusable launch vehicles deliver substantial cost savings compared to single-use rockets, though they require major refurbishment between missions to restore them to operational capacity.[TechCrunch]