CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. -- History was made Thursday, about 500 miles off the coast of Los Angeles just before lunch hour on the Atlantic seaboard.
The Dragon, the world's first commercial supply spacecraft, parachuted into the Pacific Ocean, bringing about 1,400 pounds of experiments and supplies back from the International Space Station.
The space station Expedition 31 crew sealed the hatch on the commercial cargo ship earlier in the week, and let it cast off early Thursday morning.
The SpaceX team in Hawthorne, Ca., ran Dragon through about five hours of orbital operations before commanding it to head for its recovery point.
SpaceX is the first private business to launch a ship to the orbiting outpost and bring one back.
Company officials say they hope to send their next cargo flight to the station in September.
The cargo runs are part of a contract with NASA, and are precursors to the launch of a manned variant of the Dragon.
The manned Dragon will carry astronauts to the International Space Station and, within a few years, to private space stations under the umbrella of a contract between SpaceX and Bigelow aerospace.
Competition has already shaped up.
Orbital Sciences, a competitor to SpaceX, is working on its test regimes with plans for test flights to the space station this year.
Sierra Nevada, the maker of the commercial manned space ship Dream Chaser, successfully concluded critical testing of the article this week, putting yet another competitor in the mix.