22/Aug/2014 - Last News Update: 08:00

SpaceX Dragon ship aims for Earth

Category: Headlines

Published: 31st May 2012 01:36:01

The American SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule returns to Earth on Thursday having spent a week attached to the International Space Station.

The unmanned vehicle will fall through the atmosphere to make a splashdown in the Pacific off the California coast.

Dragon made history last Friday by becoming the first privately produced craft to visit the orbiting platform.

The mission has been a demonstration of the freight service SpaceX intends to run to the station.

It has a $1.6bn contract with the US space agency (Nasa) waiting to be triggered on the successful recovery of Dragon from the ocean.

"It's a very challenging phase of flight. Only a few countries have done this before so we're not taking this lightly," said SpaceX mission director John Coulurlis ahead of the re-entry.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) closed the hatch on Dragon on Wednesday after filling it with 660kg (1,450lb) of experiments and failed equipment that need to come back to Earth.

The crew have to unberth the cargo ship from the platform using its big robotic arm before releasing it to fly free.

Dragon must then fire its thrusters several times to take itself down and away from the station. A final burn will put it on a course for re-entry into the atmosphere.

SpaceX has organised a range of ships, planes and ground stations to track the descent of the capsule, which will be slowed in the final minutes by three big parachutes.

Dragon is projected to hit the water at 15:44 GMT (11:44 EDT; 16:44 BST).

"Our splashdown zone is about 490 nautical miles south-west of Los Angeles," explained Coulurlis.

"The recovery boats - it's a fleet of three vessels with supporting fast boats that go out to safe the spacecraft.

"It will take about two to three days to return to port. We'll then go direct to our facility in Texas for cargo unloading and further spacecraft inspection."

SpaceX - Space Exploration Technologies Corporation - has been engaged by Nasa to fulfil a logistics role at the station just as soon as it has proved its systems. The current mission was designed to see it complete a final set of performance milestones.

Nasa has another such arrangement with Orbital Sciences Corporation of Virginia, although its freighter, known as Cygnus, is still several months from making its maiden flight.

The agency hopes that by contracting out the carriage of freight it will save money which can then be re-invested in more daring activities beyond the station, at destinations such as asteroids and Mars.

The commercial cargo approach will be followed later this decade by crew transport services.

SpaceX wants this business as well, and is developing the safety and life-support equipment that would allow Dragon to double up as an astronaut taxi.

Dragon reaches the station: 'Looks like we got us a dragon by the tail'

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter

BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. SpaceX Dragon ship aims for Earth [Online] (Updated 31st May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1431947/SpaceX-Dragon-ship-aims-for-Earth [Accessed 22nd Aug 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Food poverty: Experts issue malnutrition health warning

    More people are suffering from malnutrition as a result of worsening food poverty, experts have warned.
  • Gas to 755 homes hit by water leak in Nantyglo

    The number of properties without gas in Blaenau Gwent has risen to about 755 after water from a burst main leaked into gas pipes.
  • Disabled artists protest over Grayson Perry venue

    Disabled artists in Leeds are going up against Grayson Perry by staging their own exhibition in protest at the venue for his new show in the city.
  • Geraint Thomas can win Tour de France - Sir Bradley Wiggins

    Geraint Thomas can win the Tour de France, according to his fellow Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins.
  • Tor Project's struggle to keep the dark net in the shadows

    Leo Kelion speaks to Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project