SpaceX Dragon Capsule returns to earth
The SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle floats in the Pacific Ocean after splashdown. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX capsule, the first privately owned spaceship to reach the International Spaces Station (ISS), successfully returned to the Earth after supplying cargo safely to the ISS.

According to NASA, the Dragon capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 11:42 a.m. EDT on Thursday, a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico.

"Welcome home, baby," the Associated Press quoted SpaceX's elated chief, Elon Musk, as saying. He also added that the splashdown was "like seeing your kid come home."

"You can see so many ways that it could fail and it works and you're like, 'Wow, OK, it didn't fail,'" Musk said.

"I think anyone who's been involved in the design of a really complicated machine can sympathize with what I'm saying," he added.

The capsule will be taken to a SpaceX processing facility in McGregor, Texas, where it will be unloaded and inspected.

On May 22, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched NASA's Dragon space capsule into the orbit from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United States.

The Dragon capsule carried about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the crew of international station and experiments designed by students.

After it reached the ISS, astronauts grabbed the capsule using a robotic arm and berthed it at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module. The Dragon capsule spent 5 days berthed to the station. It was reloaded with 1,300 pounds (600kg) of cargo and other experiments to be taken back to earth.

Apparently, it's the first time a non-governmental spacecraft was launched to the space station.

"The ability to get to (the) space station on our first time, to not only rendezvous but then to berth, transfer cargo and depart safely are major mission objectives. We would call that mission alone a success," Reuters quoted SpaceX mission director John Couluris as saying.

NASA has been investing in private companies to carry cargo and other equipments to the international space station, which is a cheaper alternative.

SpaceX, which will perform its own test flight later this year, has been working under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS). It also co-ordinates with the private companies to deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

SpaceX will begin delivering regular cargo shipments to the station once it successfully completes the test flight.

Apart from SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corp (ORB.N), another private company, which also holds a contract with Nasa, will debut its flight to the ISS with its Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule later this year.