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SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule returns from ISS

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This still image taken from NASA TV shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely aboard the company's recovery vessel following splashdown

Wrapping up a historic mission, SpaceX's innovative Crew Dragon, the first new American spacecraft created to carry astronauts to orbit since the shuttle's debut in 1981, wrapped up a unpiloted maiden test flight Friday, plunging back to an Atlantic Ocean splashdown after a five-day visit to the International Space Station.

An unmanned SpaceX capsule has successfully splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean after a short-term stay on the International Space Station (ISS).

In this image taken from NASA Television, SpaceX's swanky new crew capsule, above, takes off after undocking from the International Space Station, right, Friday, March 8, 2019.

As part of the validation process, SpaceX and NASA will conduct an in-flight abort test, launching the Crew Dragon on top of a modified Falcon 9 rocket and then terminating the rocket engine as it reaches the point of max q - when pressure on the spacecraft is at its greatest. For the Demo-1 test flight, the Crew Dragon transported a sensor-packed dummy named Ripley and some supplies to the ISS. It quickly moved away from the station as in preparation for its return to Earth.

First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft to dock with the space station. To date, all Dragon cargo craft have instead berthed with the ISS-slowly approaching the space station and waiting for a crew member to grab the ship with a robotic arm.

NASA resumed talks with Russia's space agency Roscosmos in February seeking two additional Soyuz seats for 2020 to maintain a USA presence on the space station amid delays in the commercial crew program. It's aiming for a morning splashdown in the Atlantic off Florida's coast, the final hurdle of the six-day test flight.

At least until the first crewed Dragon makes an appearance to bring "Earthy" home.

The Dragon undocked from the International Space Station early Friday.

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The Dragon has returned to Earth. Provided it goes well, the first crewed mission of SpaceX's capsule will occur in July, featuring astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. SpaceX is shooting for summer.

The successful test and splashdown is "an fantastic achievement in American history", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who called the SpaceX flight the "dawning of a new era in American human space flight". The Demo-2 flight vehicle that will carry humans to space is still under construction by SpaceX.

On the Crew Dragon, he noted, "the windows will be down near our feet on this vehicle".

"I don't think we saw anything in the mission so far that would preclude us from having a crewed mission later this year", Stich said Friday. Musk said, "That could potentially cause a roll instability on re-entry".

SpaceX's Crew Dragon is an upgraded version of the robotic cargo-carrying Dragon that has been ferrying payloads to and from the space station since 2012, a year after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet.

"I'm very comfortable with where we're headed with this flight". As a result, when SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted a picture of its inclusion, the company was inundated with orders completely depleting their available stock.

But after this week's SpaceX flight, if post-mission review determines the flight had no issues, we could see astronauts climb aboard the Crew Dragon by the end of the year.

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