SpaceX's Dragon space capsule, which last week became the world's first privately built and operated spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station, is scheduled to return to Earth on Thursday morning.
At 8:44 a.m. Pacific time, the capsule is set to splash down in the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles west of Southern California. It will be the culmination of a historic mission carried out by the Hawthorne company, which is officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
The Dragon's departure from the space station is set to be webcast on NASA TV (www.nasa.gov/ntv) starting at 12:30 a.m. The spacecraft will separate from the space station using the station's robotic arm and release at 3:10 a.m, after which live coverage will cease until 7:15 a.m.
The craft is set make its way back to Earth by firing its Draco thrusters to de-orbit. Once the Dragon enters the atmosphere, it will deploy parachutes around 8:35 a.m. to slow its descent into the ocean.
The craft is set to remain afloat until it's retrieved by a ship.
If successful, it will mark the second time that SpaceX has launched a space capsule into orbit and had it survive a fiery reentry. The company previously pulled off the feat in December 2010.