CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A private company launched a spacecraft into orbit and then, in a historic first, guided it back to Earth on Wednesday in a bold test for NASA that could lead to the first commercial space station supply run next year and eventual astronaut rides.
The capsule named Dragon, built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., splashed down into the Pacific Ocean three hours after launching from Cape Canaveral. NASA immediately offered congratulations.
"Splashdown on target. Mission is a success!" the company announced via Twitter.
Until now, only governments had accomplished re-entries from orbit.
The Dragon rode into orbit Wednesday morning aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It circled the world twice, then parachuted into the Pacific. It was aiming for a spot roughly 500 miles off the Mexican coast. Recovery crews were quickly on the scene, putting floats on the spacecraft.