Water in Dragon capsule didn’t affect returned cargo

Dragon CRS-3 splashdown

A SpaceX Dragon capsule splashing down in the Pacific Ocean Sunday, May 18, 2014. Reports indicate water was found inside the capsule after splashdown, but that it did not affect any of the cargo brought back from the station. (credit: SpaceX)

The splashdown of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California just after 3 pm EDT (1900 GMT) Sunday appeared to mark the end of the company’s third Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS). All that SpaceX had to do was return the capsule by boat to Los Angeles, where some cargo would be offloaded and from them on the Texas for the rest.

By Tuesday morning, though, there were rumors flying around the space community that there was an issue with the Dragon spacecraft. Reports claimed that it took as long as 11 hours to retrieve the capsule from the ocean and place it on the boat, and that water was found inside the capsule, either salt water that leaked in or water from a payload or other equipment brought back from the ISS. Aviation Week was the first to formally report on the issue on Wednesday, citing multiple sources, and later verified by NASA.

Any water leakage in, or into, the capsule does not appear to have caused problems for the payloads returned from the station. “All early-return cargo was delivered on time Tuesday as planned and is in good condition,” NASA spokesperson Rachel Kraft said in an emailed statement on Thursday afternoon, in response to an earlier inquiry about the reported water intrusion issue. “Early-return cargo included about 660 pounds of ambient and cold stowage science samples for which all temperature requirements were met.”

“The remaining cargo from Dragon is on its way back to NASA facilities in Houston and is expected to arrive on Friday,” the statement continued. “Initial indications show no issues with the returned hardware, which will undergo normal inspection upon arrival in Houston.”

A SpaceX spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the issue on Tuesday.

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