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SpaceX Dragon capsule splashes down off Florida’s west coast

The unmanned CRS-21 Cargo Dragon capsule came down in the Gulf of Mexico west of the Tampa Bay area, according to SpaceX. The Coast Guard warned boaters to stay away from the safety zone before splashdown.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. The unmanned capsule made a successful splashdown late Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico, west of the Tampa Bay area, according to SpaceX.
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle begins its separation from the station after undocking from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. The unmanned capsule made a successful splashdown late Wednesday in the Gulf of Mexico, west of the Tampa Bay area, according to SpaceX. [ NASA TV ]
Published Jan. 13
Updated Jan. 14

The SpaceX CRS-21 Cargo Dragon capsule successfully splashed down off Florida’s west coast on Wednesday night, the aerospace company announced on Twitter.

The Coast Guard confirmed the successful splashdown at 8:35 p.m. It had established a two-mile safety zone in the Gulf of Mexico west of Tampa Bay to serve as the splashdown site of the unmanned supply ship’s return from the International Space Station. There were guardsmen on hand to aid with recovery, the agency said.

The capsule was right on time. The CRS-21 Cargo Dragon was scheduled to land at about 8:27 p.m. Wednesday, NASA said. On Tuesday, the ship became the first U.S. commercial supply ship to undock from the Space Station without a crew.

The safety zone went into effect three hours before splashdown, according to the Coast Guard — so likely at about 5:27 p.m. A broadcast notice informed the public of the activation of the safety zone an hour before that, via VHF-FM channel 16, the Coast Guard said. Unauthorized people and vessels were not be allowed in the safety zone.

Too-close boaters created confusion last August, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico and dozens of recreational boats circled the area, creating confusion for the recovery crew and a potentially dangerous situation for all involved.

The Dragon was originally scheduled to begin its re-entry process at about 7:37 p.m., according to NASA.