SpaceX’s unmanned Crew Dragon capsule has splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after its historic DEMO-1 test flight to the International Space Station.
The capsule, carrying a dummy dubbed ‘Ripley,’ made its return to Earth after undocking from the ISS early Friday. After plunging through the Earth’s atmosphere, Crew Dragon deployed its parachutes and splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST.
The six-day test flight is a crucial step in SpaceX’s plan to provide human spaceflight. Lessons learned from DEMO-1 should improve safety when two NASA astronauts strap into a Dragon as early as July.
The capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on March 2nd, docking with the orbiting space lab the following day. SpaceX notes that Crew Dragon is the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock with the ISS.
Boeing is also in the race to end NASA's eight-year drought of launching U.S. astronauts on U.S. rockets from U.S. soil. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the ISS.
Last year, NASA announced the nine astronauts that will crew the test flights and first missions of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.
The initial SpaceX mission to the ISS will be crewed by NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, according to the space agency. The first Boeing mission to the International Space Station will be crewed by NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Suni Williams.
Boeing’s unmanned Orbital Flight Test is targeted for launch no earlier than April, according to NASA.
The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers