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SpaceX Dragon launch  (Source: universetoday.com)
The Dragon capsule berthed the ISS' 58-foot robotic Canadarm2 at 12:02 p.m. EDT today

After launching toward the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule has successfully reached the ISS, becoming the first commercial spacecraft to do so.

Private rocket company SpaceX launched its unmanned Dragon cargo capsule from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:44 a.m. on Tuesday. The Dragon was coupled with a Falcon 9 rocket and is carrying supplies such as food, clothing and science experiments to the ISS.

After leaving Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, the Dragon capsule had to perform a series of tests to prove that it was ready for docking at the ISS. Over the past few days, the Dragon successfully completed the maneuvers, and NASA finally gave SpaceX the green light to dock at the ISS today.

"The International Space Station mission management team completed a thorough review of the progress...and...unanimously authorized the International Space Station and Dragon flight control teams to proceed toward rendezvous and berthing about 11:20 a.m. ET Friday," said NASA.

According to SpaceX, the Dragon detached from the Falcon 9 rocket and deployed its solar arrays successfully. Dragon then orbited the Earth on Tuesday and Wednesday and fired its thrusters to make its way to the ISS.

According to NASA astronaut Don Pettit, the Dragon capsule berthed the ISS' 58-foot robotic Canadarm2 at 12:02 p.m. EDT.

"Houston, Station, it looks like we've got us a Dragon by the tail," said Pettit.

The Dragon's journey toward the ISS is a momentous occasion for American spaceflight. Not only does it mark the first time a private spacecraft has traveled to the ISS, but it also puts the U.S. back on the map when it comes to space adventures.

NASA retired its space shuttle fleet throughout the course of 2011. After putting the Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis spae shuttles to rest, U.S. astronauts could only travel to the ISS via Russian Soyuz spacecrafts. However, the issue here is that the cost per seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft is expensive, and is expected to reach $63 million by 2015.

It was clear that the U.S. needed an alternative, and SpaceX was happy to help. The private rocket company built its Dragon to be the first private spacecraft to travel to the ISS, allowing the U.S. to be in charge of its space-related itinerary once again.

SpaceX has had some troubles while planning its ISS trip, such as delays and a recent issue with a check valve that caused a last-minute abort just last week. SpaceX even faced public criticism from American space heroes Neil Armstrong, who was the first astronaut to step foot upon the Moon on Apollo 11, and Gene Cernan, who was the last man to step foot upon the moon on Apollo 17.

Despite these obstacles, SpaceX has prevailed and seems to have a smooth mission to the ISS so far. The Dragon is currently linked up to the ISS and is expected to unload its cargo tomorrow. The Dragon has 674 pounds of food, clothing and other supplies as well as 271 pounds of cargo bags, 46 pounds of science experiments, and 22 pounds of computer equipment.

The Dragon will stay docked at the ISS for two weeks before plunging into the Pacific Ocean. From there, a boat will retrieve the cargo capsule and collect the supplies it brought back from the ISS.

The ISS even captured footage of the Dragon making its way to the weightless station. Below is a video of SpaceX's Dragon making its historic arrival at the ISS:

Sources: ABC, Space.com



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incredible
By DockScience on 5/25/2012 8:10:23 PM , Rating: 5
SpaceX spent $600 million over the past 7 years to develop the Dragon, the booster which launched it, and the engines which powered the booster.

Boeing began work on the Orion/Multipurpose Crew vehicle at the same time. Which is about 20% bigger than the Dragon.

Boeing get's $1.2 BILLION/yr for Crew, which is still years away from its first flight.

Nasa spends $50 million/year just managing the Crew program and another $37 million auditing the managers who manage the prime contractors, who manage the major contractors, who manage the subcontractors who shop out the work to firms who actually do the work.

SpaceX did virtually everything in-house. Boeing has subcontracted out to companies in 28 states for maximum pork potential.

Compare and contrast as company driven by passion and one driven by its long standing membership in the government-industrial complex.




RE: incredible
By StevoLincolnite on 5/25/2012 10:33:28 PM , Rating: 2
This is why you need less government intervention, to let capitalism take it's due course and fill in the demand, ultimately it works out cheaper and more efficient.

And is also the reason why you should vote Ron Paul. :P


RE: incredible
By StormyKnight on 5/25/2012 11:17:57 PM , Rating: 2
I like Ron Paul's domestic plans. His foreign policy leaves much to be desired.


RE: incredible
By TheEinstein on 5/25/2012 11:17:06 PM , Rating: 2
Ron Paul...

You just made a fool out of yourself. The court jester as the king? Ha, that would be the day.

The man is scared FEMA wants to cause a civil war. Nuff said.

You vote for a devout Conservative for a smack down of the Government... they won't gut what's needed, but they will roast over a fire the rest.


RE: incredible
By kattanna on 5/29/2012 11:17:40 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Boeing has subcontracted out to companies in 28 states for maximum pork potential.


what would you expect from a company that has to worry more about appeasing members of congress then actually completing a task?

a member of congress squeaks, and the company is then forced to do some work there under the banner of "creating jobs" which really only serves to increase the cost of doing anything.

the biggest problem facing NASA is congress.


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