Dec. 8, 2010 at 2:05 PM ET
SpaceX reports that its Dragon spaceship has come down from orbit, made it through atmospheric re-entry, opened its parachutes and splashed down into the Pacific Ocean as planned.
Today's mission represented the Dragon's maiden test flight. The two-orbit circuit was the first in-space tryout for a craft that's meant to resupply the International Space Station after next year's scheduled retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet. Unless something went horribly wrong while the gumdrop-shaped craft was in orbit (interdimensional wormhole?), the mission can be considered fully successful.
In a follow-up tweet, California-based SpaceX said it was "the first commercial company to re-enter a spacecraft from space." Actually, another California company, Scaled Composites, accomplished that feat in 2004 with the suborbital SpaceShipOne rocket plane. But SpaceX was the first to return a private-sector craft from orbit.
(Of course, commercial enterprises have had a hand in building all of NASA's spacecraft, and SpaceX is relying on $278 million in NASA funding for Falcon/Dragon development -- but I hope you know what I mean. In this case, NASA is the client, not the operator. Mission control was run by SpaceX, not NASA. The rocket and the capsule featured SpaceX's logo, not NASA's.)
A SpaceX news conference is expected at NASA's Kennedy Space Center later today.