1 Jun 2012

SpaceX shuttle returns from space

3:45 pm on 1 June 2012

The SpaceX Dragon unmanned space shuttle splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, becoming the first private flight to travel to and return from the International Space Station.

The capsule finished a nine-day test flight, delivering about 544kg of supplies to the International Space Station.

Astronauts earlier used the station's robot arm to release Dragon into orbit. It splashed down about 900km southwest of Los Angeles at 11.42am local time on Thursday, Reuters reports.

It's been an extremely successful joint mission, NASA mission commentator Josh Byerly said.

The United States has been without its own transportation to the station, a project of 15 nations, since NASA retired the last of its shuttles last year.

SpaceX has a $US1.6 billion NASA contract to fly cargo to the station in 12 flights.

A second commercial freighter built by Orbital Sciences Corp is expected to debut this year. Orbital also has a contract to deliver space station cargo valued at $US1.9 billion.