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SpaceX 'Dragon' wings back to Earth, splashes down in the Pacific

DRAGON LEAVING ISS

Photo credit: ESA/NASA

SpaceX "Dragon" smoothly undocked, moved out, released and on its way home on May 31, 2012.

Six hours after departing the International Space Station, the now legendary SpaceX "Dragon" parachuted back to its home planet and splashed into the Pacific Ocean. 

The unmanned cargo ship, returing from space with nearly 1,400 pounds of old gear, was launched last week by Hawthorne-based Space Exploration Technologies, or "SpaceX," making history as the first private rocket company to fly cargo to the International Space Station.  

NASA, having made its last space shuttle flight earlier this year, is now relying on private companies like Space X to make those space runs. The world's first commercial supply ship was let loose by astronauts on Thursday after a five-day visit to the final frontier. 

Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers described the experience via Twitter, writing that "Dragon smoothly undocked, moved out, released and on its way home."

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SpaceX catches malfunction, delays launch of Dragon capsule until early Tuesday

SpaceX

A NASA rendering of SpaceX's Dragon capsule as it prepares to berth with the International Space Station.

For those wondering what became of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which was scheduled to launch last weekend and berth with the International Space Station: There was a minor malfunction.

But it’s no big deal, and the spacecraft is now scheduled to launch early Tuesday morning, the Hawthorne-based company said.

“Today’s launch was aborted when the flight computer detected slightly high pressure in the engine 5 combustion chamber,” the company said in a brief statement on Saturday. “We have discovered root cause and repairs are underway.”

CBS says the company has fixed the problem, and liftoff is rescheduled for 3:44 a.m. Eastern time -- which is 12:44 a.m. here.

Perched atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the Dragon capsule is designed to blast off into Earth’s orbit, connect with the ISS and dock, allowing delivery of food and supplies to the space station’s occupants. Then if all goes according to plan, it will disengage and return to Earth.

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