SpaceX Dragon Capsule Returns to Earth After Space Station Delivery

A SpaceX Dragon capsule departs the International Space Station on Jan. 13, 2018 to return 4,100 lbs. (1,860 kilograms) of science gear to Earth and end a monthlong delivery mission.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule departs the International Space Station on Jan. 13, 2018 to return 4,100 lbs. (1,860 kilograms) of science gear to Earth and end a monthlong delivery mission. (Image credit: NASA TV)

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship left the International Space Station and returned to Earth Saturday (Jan. 13), wrapping up a nearly month-long delivery mission for NASA that also marked the spacecraft's second trip to space.

The uncrewed Dragon supply ship detached from the space station's robotic arm at 4:58 a.m. EST (0958 GMT) and began firing thrusters for its return to Earth. The space capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California to be retrieved by SpaceX, the company announced at 10:39 a.m. EST (1539 GMT). [See photos of the Dragon cargo ship's mission]

"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed, completing the second resupply mission to and from the @Space_Station with a flight-proven commercial spacecraft," SpaceX representatives said in a Twitter update

Dragon is carrying nearly 4,100 lbs. (1,860 kilograms) of cargo to Earth, much of it science gear from human and animal research, and other experiments. That gear includes hardware from an experiment by space manufacturing company Made In Space to 3d-print ZBLAN glass fiber optic wire in space, and a group of live mice from NASA's Rodent Research 6 study to develop medications that address muscle loss in space., NASA officials said.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Dragon mission on Dec. 15, with the capsule arriving at the International Space Station on Dec. 17. The mission, SpaceX's 13th resupply flight for NASA, delivered 4,800 lbs. (2,177 kilograms) of supplies and gear for astronauts.

In addition to delivering cargo, the mission marked a milestone for SpaceX's rocket reusability program. Both the Dragon capsule and its Falcon 9 booster made their second trips to space on this flight. The Falcon 9 booster's first stage previously launched a different Dragon capsule to the space station in June 2017. The Dragon capsule on this flight, meanwhile, previously visited the space station in April 2015. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:49 a.m. EST to include the successful splashdown of the Dragon capsule. 

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.