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SpaceX Dragon Returns With 4,000 Pounds Of Cargo To Earth

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The unmanned SpaceX Dragon has successfully returned to Earth on May 5, 11:59 a.m. PT after delivering cargo to the International Space Station.

The Dragon space vehicle, which splashed down the Pacific Ocean west of Baja, California, brought back 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of NASA cargo, including science and technology demonstration samples from the ISS. Dragon will be taken to Long Beach to unload some cargo for NASA before it will be transported back to SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas.

"Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed, completing SpaceX's third resupply mission to and from the @Space_Station with a flight-proven spacecraft," tweeted Elon Musk's space company.

The Dragon capsule brought home Metabolic Tracking that could help produce more effective and less expensive drugs, as well as the APEX-06 and Fruit Fly Lab-03 projects, which studied effective crop growing in space and disease genes and immunity to help prepare for long-term missions in the future.

Expensive Cargo

Dragon launched its second resupply mission to the ISS on April 2, where it came aboard Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX's Dragon rocket is currently the only space vehicle capable of returning cargo to Earth.

SpaceX is charging higher prices to deliver less cargo to the American space station, according to a recent analysis by NASA.

NASA inspector general Paul Martin said the agency will have to pay $400 million more for SpaceX to deliver another round of cargo for contracts that will run between 2020 and 2024. This is despite the calculation that NASA will be moving 6 tons less of cargo to the ISS, leading to about 14 percent increase in costs.

SpaceX reportedly has increased its bid price to NASA by 50 percent. This new development surprised critics, especially that SpaceX has charged relatively lower costs than NASA's other partner, Orbital ATK.

For missions between 2012 and 2020, SpaceX is set to complete 20 resupply missions at $152.1 million per flight. On the one hand, Orbital ATK is scheduled to fly 11 missions at $262.2 million each.

"Officials believe competition has contributed to lower prices for NASA launches," the report stated. "To that point, NASA officials reviewed past launch pricing and found the cost for a basic Atlas V configuration decreased by roughly $20 million per launch after the Falcon 9 became eligible in 2013 to compete for launch services contracts through the Agency's Launch Services Program."

However, the costs are expected to balance out in the second round of resupply missions as Orbital ATK is set to reduce its price by 15 percent.

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