SpaceX's Dragon Capsule Reaches ISS, Station Captures Footage of Arrival
May 25, 2012 3:30 PM
SpaceX Dragon launch
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:
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