No humans were aboard, when the Dragon unhooked itself at 11:31 p.m. PT Thursday and backed away from its port on the station's US -built Harmony module, 250 miles above the planet. - The first human-rated commercial spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station departed early Friday morning from the orbiting laboratory.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday after more than six days in space, completing its demonstration mission for U.S. space agency NASA.
The astronauts have begun procedures ahead of Crew Dragon's undocking at 2:31 a.m. Friday. "We want to make sure that everything is flawless". If deemed a complete success, the mission would give NASA increased confidence in one of its prime contractors and propel the space agency a step closer to restoring human spaceflight from US soil. It was carrying about 400 pounds of supplies for the ISS and a space-suited dummy named Ripley, which is "fitted with sensors around the head, neck and spine to record everything an astronaut would experience throughout the mission".
In 2014, Nasa awarded Elon Musk's SpaceX and Boeing a combined $6.8bn to build competing spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit from the United States.
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain
Since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has been unable to fly its astronauts. When the capsule returns, it will bring back a trove of scientific samples from research projects, along with other equipment. And maybe another plush toy or two.
There are now three astronauts on board the space station: Anne C. McClain from Spokane, Washington; station commander Oleg Kononenko from Russian; and David Saint-Jacques from Canada.
"I think our plan is to have him teach us", Behnken said, referring to Li'l Earthie. For example, some tweaks may need to be made to the thruster system, and the parachute system still has to be fully certified for crewed flights. Few people would be surprised if Demo-2 was launched later than July.
The mission, dubbed Demo-1, kicked off just under a week ago with the launch of the crew-capable Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 booster, and subsequent docking the following day. The first flight without crew is slated for no earlier than April and a crewed launch in late summer. Before the mission, NASA officials had said the spacecraft's ability to dock autonomously to the station would be one of the biggest tests of the vehicle.