In another step forward for reusability in space travel, a SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully landed again after being refitted and reflown to the ISS on its groundbreaking second supply mission approximately one month ago.
Dragon carries approximately 6000kg of supplies to the ISS, and returns with 2000kg of cargo and results of scientific studies (this time including research on fruit fly hearts, stem cell therapy, and osteoporosis in microgravity).
The increasing use of reusable space hardware like Dragon and SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle will help substantially drive down the costs of launches. Coupled with private spaceflight companies beginning to prove themselves and gain organisational expertise, the outlook for both scientific research and exploration is bright.
This particular capsule will probably end up returning to SpaceX for extensive testing, as researchers hope to understand the stresses of multiple launch and return cycles. Who knows - maybe we'll even see it fly again!
A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft departed the International Space Station and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean today (July 3), finishing its historic second journey to the orbiting lab. The space station's robotic arm, Canadarm-2, released the robotic resupply vessel at 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT), beginning Dragon's roughly 5.5-hour journey back to Earth. That journey ended with a successful landing in the Pacific Ocean, a few hundred miles southwest of the California coast, SpaceX representatives said. "Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed — completing first re-flight of a commercial spacecraft to and from the @Space_Station," SpaceX announced via Twitter today.