Elon Musk, SpaceX complete historic test flight to International Space Station


The SpaceX Crew Dragon is spinning down its orbit after undocking from the International Space Station early Friday.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft opens its nose cone before docking with the International Space Station on March 3. Eastern March 8, about six hours before its splashdown in the Atlantic.

It represents the first private space mission to the ISS, as well as the first time a space vessel capable of carrying people was launched by the United States in eight years.

Dragon splashed into the Atlantic Ocean exactly on time, at 08:45 EST (13:45 UTC).

Their vehicles-SpaceX's Crew Dragon and Boeing's CST-100 Starliner-will be NASA's primary means of transporting astronauts for the foreseeable future, ending nearly a decade of reliance on Russia's space program to launch American astronauts.

A piloted flight test of the Crew Dragon could happen as soon as July, when it will carry NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.

While Dragon's crew member was a dummy named Ripley this time, the mission sets the stage for a manned flight, which will see two U.S. astronauts book a return trip to the ISS.

The capsule will prepare itself for landing with a deorbit burn before a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

The mission has been hitch-free thus far.

Demo-1 undocking
Watch: SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean

A SpaceX rocket had launched the 16-foot-tall capsule from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Saturday morning. "The vehicle really did better than we expected", Steve Stich, deputy Commercial Crew program manager for NASA, said shortly after the landing.

Boeing is scheduled to fly its first uncrewed mission to the station by next month at the earliest, though that date is likely to slip, officials have said.

The space station's three-member crew greeted Crew Dragon upon its arrival.

"This is an wonderful achievement in American history", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on NASA TV, per the New York Times. The past week's flight marked the first-ever Crew Dragon space trip, known as Demonstration Mission 1 or DM-1.

The splashdown was the final test on this mission for Crew Dragon, during a flight test for a capsule that could become the first USA craft to carry astronauts into space since the shuttle program was phased out in 2011.

During a video interview with reporters beamed to Earth on Thursday, Saint-Jacques said it looked "like a business class spacecraft".

Bridenstine told Reuters the cost per seat on the Boeing or SpaceX systems would be lower than for the shuttle or Soyuz.

NASA resumed talks with Russia's space agency Roscosmos in February seeking two additional Soyuz seats for 2020 to maintain a USA presence on the space station amid delays in the commercial crew program. Vibration, acoustic and other measurements were taken throughout the recently completed flight, not only of the capsule but also the mannequin - named Ripley after the lead character in the "Alien" films - which was strapped into one of the four seats.