The SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully returned to Earth on Thursday after a mission to restock the International Space Station.

The capsule touched down at 11.42am EST, or 4.42pm BST.

Following its landmark launch on 22 May, Space Exploration Technologies Dragon spaceship became the first privately developed space vehicle to dock with the $100bn ISS.

The mission was unmanned, but the capsule delivered 1,000 pounds of clothing, food, computer equipment and student experiments to the ISS.

Once detached from the ISS the capsule fired its steering jets in several bursts, leaving the ISS behind:

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Above: the Dragon pictured after leaving the ISS.


The craft then left orbit and fell to Earth. Splashdown in the Pacific ocean, about 560 miles southwest of Los Angeles
according to Reuters, to place slightly earlier than expected.


SpaceX
Splashdown! Welcome home !

The mission director said tracking and rescuing the capsule was a challenge, despite several successful tests.

"We've done it once, but it's still a very challenging phase of flight," mission director John Couluris told reporters.

dragon

Above: Artists impression of the Dragon's return to Earth.


SpaceX now looks set to secure a 12-flight contract to fly cargo to the ISS, worth about $1.6bn.

The US is currently unable to transport cargo to the orbiting platform because it has not launched its replacement for the space shuttle program.

It is looking to SpaceX and other companies to provide a cheaper alternative.

On Tuesday SpaceX also said it had signed a commercial contract to launch the world's most powerful rocket.

The Falcon Heavy rocket will launch a satellite into orbit on behalf of Intelsat, according to a statement.


PHOTOS: SpaceX's Journey Into History

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  • SpaceX

    In this image provided by NASA With darkness, Earth's horizon and thin line of atmosphere forming a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station.

  • Space X

    In this image provided by NASA With darkness, Earth's horizon and thin line of atmosphere forming a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station.

  • In this image provided by NASA With darkness, Earth's horizon and thin line of atmosphere forming a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm at the International Space Station.

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft as it approaches the International Space Station Thursday May 24, 2012 for a series of tests to clear it for its final rendezvous and grapple on May 25. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship about 8:06 a.m., Friday with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node following about 11:20 a.m. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft as it approaches the International Space Station Thursday May 24, 2012 for a series of tests to clear it for its final rendezvous and grapple on May 25. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship about 8:06 a.m., Friday with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node following about 11:20 a.m. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, as Dragon approaches the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft taken from Canadarm2's video camera as Dragon approaches the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. In foreground is a portion of Canadarm2. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship Friday morning with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node following. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    NASA Mission Control.

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    SpaceX Mission Control

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft as it flys over the coast of West Africa taken from Canadarm2's video camera as Dragon approaches the International Space Station early Friday May 25, 2012. In foreground is a portion of Canadarm2. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship early Friday morning with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node following about 11:20 a.m. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft taken from Canadarm2's video camera as Dragon approaches the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. In foreground is a portion of Canadarm2. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship Friday morning with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node following. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the International Space Station taken from the thermal imaging camera aboard the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft as it approaches the International Space Station Thursday May 24, 2012. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    Image from NASA TV showing view from Space Station.

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft taken from Canadarm2's video camera as Dragon approaches the International Space Station Friday May 25, 2012. In foreground is a portion of Canadarm2. Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship early Friday morning with the berthing to the Earth-facing side of the station's Harmony node following about 11:20 a.m. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, as Dragon approaches the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, as Dragon approaches the International Space Station, and Expedition 31 Flight Engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the supply ship Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, just after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, just after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, just after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • SpaceX Craft Successfully Docks At Space Station

    This image provided by NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station, Friday, May 25, 2012. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • In this April 29, 2012 photo provided by SpaceX, a SpaceX Dragon capsule on the company's Falcon 9 rocket is transported to a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, announced the latest delay Wednesday, May 2, 2012. The company did not set a new launch date. A Falcon rocket carrying a Dragon capsule was supposed to blast off from Cape Canaveral on Monday, May 7, 2012, but additional software testing was ordered. The test flight is already three months late. (AP Photo/SpaceX)

  • FILE - In this June 4, 2010 file photo, a halo forms around the top of the SpaceX Falcon 9 test rocket as launches from complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. A launch scheduled for Saturday, May 19, 2012, will mark for the first time, a private company will send its own rocket to the orbiting International Space Station, delivering food and ushering in a new era in America's space program. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

  • SPACEX DRAGON

    Graphic explains the SpaceX Dragon capsule

  • Andre Kuipers, Donald Pettit

    In this April 20, 2012 NASA/European Space Agency photo, Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, left, and American astronaut Donald Pettit await the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon supply capsule after its scheduled launch aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. Private rocket maker SpaceX aimed for a Tuesday liftoff after fixing the engine problem that caused a launch abort over the weekend. If launched Tuesday, May 22, the Dragon will reach the space station Thursday and undergo a series of practice maneuvers from more than a mile out. Then on Friday, the capsule will fly within reach of the station's 58-foot robot arm, which will snare it and berth it to the orbiting lab. The arm will be operated by astronauts Pettit,and Kuipers, two of the six station residents. (AP Photo/NASA/European Space Agency)

  • The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday, May 22, 2012. This launch marks the first time, a private company sends its own rocket to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

  • The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket is seen during a time exsposure as it lifts off from space launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., early Tuesday, May 22, 2012. This launch marks the first time, a private company sends its own rocket to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

  • This framegrab from NASA-TV shows the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket on the launch pad at complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., seconds after the launch was aborted due to technical problems early Saturday May 19, 2012. The launch is rescheduled for Tuesday morning May 22, 2012 at 3:44 a.m. EDT (AP Photo/NASA)

  • CEO of SpaceX And Tesla Motors Makes Announcement On SpaceX's Latest Venture

    WASHINGTON - APRIL 5: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, pauses while speaking during a news conference at the National Press Club April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, held the news conference to announce SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket which could complete missions to the International Space Station and Moon and should be ready for use by the end of 2012. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

  • CEO of SpaceX And Tesla Motors Makes Announcement On SpaceX's Latest Venture

    WASHINGTON - APRIL 5: Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp, speaks during a news conference at the National Press Club April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. Elon Musk, CEO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, held the news conference to announce SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket which could complete missions to the International Space Station and Moon and should be ready for use by the end of 2012. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

  • US President Barack Obama(R) tours the S

    US President Barack Obama(R) tours the SpaceX launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 15, 2010. Obama traveled to Florida in a bid to soothe critics of his plan to scrap an over-budget Moon launch program and reshape NASA's future. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In this Nov. 16, 2011, photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule is lifted to be placed atop its cargo ring inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first commercial cargo run to the International Space Station has been delayed again for more software testing. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, was aiming for a Monday, April 30, 2012, liftoff of its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule. But on Wednesday, May 2, the California-based company announced its latest postponement and said a new launch date had not been set. (AP Photo/NASA, Kim Shiflett)

  • US President Barack Obama tours SpaceX l

    US President Barack Obama tours SpaceX launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 15, 2010. Obama traveled to Florida in a bid to soothe critics of his plan to scrap an over-budget Moon launch program and reshape NASA's future. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)