Elon Musk's SpaceX capsule splashes down off Florida coast

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The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8, 2019.

Now that SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule has successfully landed back on Earth and completed its first full test flight, dubbed Demo-1, Elon Musk's rocket company must quickly turn its gaze to the next tests on its journey to put humans in space.

As early as July, Ripley the dummy astronaut could be followed by the real deal, as two Americans are scheduled to take off aboard the first crewed Crew Dragon, ending a drought of astronaut launchings from American soil that began in the summer of 2011 when the last space shuttle flew and the program was mothballed.

The final splashdown is expected to happen at 1345 GMT on Friday, March 8, in the Atlantic ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

"I'm very comfortable with where we're headed with this flight".

Results from this mission will determine whether SpaceX can stick to its current 2019 test schedule following previous development delays for the Hawthorne, California-based company and Boeing.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for DM-1 in the hangar about a month before launch.

Five hours after the Crew Dragon detaches from the ISS at about 07:30 EST (3:30 p.m. Moscow time), the spacecraft will activate its braking engines. The SpaceX ship "Go Searcher" was in the Atlantic Ocean on standby waiting to use a crane to pull the craft out of the water.

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The past week's flight marked the first-ever Crew Dragon space trip, known as Demonstration Mission 1 or DM-1. It returned home today after offloading about 400 pounds of supplies for the International Space station. But if all goes well, the next flight will see two U.S. astronauts book a return trip to the ISS, sometime before the end of the year, according to NASA.

Although created to carry up to seven passengers, none will be inside Crew Dragon when it attempts re-entry this afternoon.

Still, he added "hypersonic reentry is probably my biggest concern".

SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, was selected along with the Boeing group by NASA in 2014 to develop the next generation of space vehicles for United States astronauts, after the end of the 1981-2011 space shuttle program.

"There's a lot that we have to do before we can certify both these vehicles to fly humans to space, but I think it's a definite possibility, and I'm confident we'll get one of them up there with crew before the end of the year", Bob Cabana, director of NASA Kennedy Space Center said at the pre-launch news briefing.

The successful test mission marked an important moment for the USA space program's plans to restart manned space flights.

After leaving the station Crew Dragon then spent the next several hours tracking away from the station and getting on track to reenter Earth's atmosphere.

To end its reliance on Russian Federation - a situation that many in the spaceflight community considered an embarrassment - NASA in 2014 awarded SpaceX and Boeing a combined $6.8-billion contract to build a pair of spacecraft to fill that gap.

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