SpaceX racked up another first today as its Dragon capsule returned from the International Space Station (ISS) for the second time. The unmanned cargo ship, which previously visited the station in 2014, splashed own in the Pacific Ocean at 8:12 am EDT after spending a month in space berthed to one of the ISS modules.
Part of the CRS-11 mission, the Dragon lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida on June 3 at 5:07 pm EDT atop a Falcon 9 booster. The reusable spacecraft was stocked with 6,000 lb (2,721 kg) of supplies and experiments for the space station, where it arrived on June 5.
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During its four week stay, the Dragon was unpacked and then loaded up with a number of scientific studies for return to Earth, including one studying the effects of prolonged weightlessness on fruit fly hearts, another on osteoporosis in rats, and one on the growth of cardiac stem cells.
The Dragon capsule was detached from the station by NASA astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson at 2:41 am EDT using a robotic arm. Five hours later, the capsule executed a reentry burn that lasted about 10 minutes, followed by a 30 minute reentry and splashdown. The capsule and its contents will now be returned to the Kennedy Space Center for inspection and unloading. This is the 11th commercial resupply mission to the station by SpaceX.