(HOUSTON) -- The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, descending under three large parachutes, safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean south of San Diego on Thursday, NASA said, successfully ending the first-ever commercial flight to the International Space Station.
"Splashdown! Welcome home #Dragon!" said SpaceX on its Twitter feed. The landing, monitored at NASA's Mission Control in Houston and SpaceX control in Hawthorne, Calif., took place at 8:42 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. The ship had unberthed from the space station four hours earlier and fired its engines Thursday morning to slow itself from orbit.
NASA tweeted, "@SpaceX #Dragon capsule safely down in Pacific Ocean -- ending first mission by a commercial company to resupply the #ISS."
It was a nine-day flight. The Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station before dawn on May 22, carrying 1,100 pounds of supplies for the station -- and, more important, the hopes for a new way of doing space travel.
The SpaceX flight was, in many ways, routine. It brought 1,100 pounds of supplies to the space station, something American space shuttles and Russian Progress capsules started doing when the first components of the station were launched in 1998. American spacecraft have splashed down in the ocean for more than 50 years.
The one major difference is that SpaceX is a private company, founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk. Until now, all flights to the space station have been made by the U.S., Russian or European space agencies. NASA hopes SpaceX and other commercial firms will take over space jobs since it retired its shuttle program after 30 years in anticipation of such private missions.
SpaceX, a Hawthorne, California-based company, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make 12 trips to the ISS.
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