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Dragon arrived at the orbiting station early Wednesday morning

SpaceX's Dragon capsule successfully made it to the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning, where it will unload nearly 1,000 pounds of cargo for the next few weeks.

The unmanned Dragon capsule set off toward the ISS Sunday night, and arrived at the orbiting station early Wednesday morning. Astronauts on the ISS used a robot arm to securely latch the Dragon to the space station about 250 miles above the Pacific, just west of Baja California. 

"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon," said Sunita Williams, ISS commander. "We're happy she's on board with us." 

The Dragon's hatch will be opened tomorrow, where astronauts will begin unloading the cargo inside. Right now, Dragon contains 882 pounds of scientific experiments, groceries, clothes and other items. The capsule will return to Earth with twice as much cargo.

This week's venture to the ISS marks Dragon's second journey to the ISS. It originally made a test flight back in May of this year, but this particular trip marks the first official cargo run as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. This contract locks SpaceX in to 12 total cargo runs to the ISS through 2015. 


While today's linkup at the ISS was a successful one, the entire trip wasn't perfect. A prototype communications satellite aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket (which launched Dragon to the ISS) was sent into the wrong orbit due to one of the Falcon 9s' Merlin engines shutting down early during Sunday night's launch. Orbcomm, the company that owns the prototype OG2 satellite, said it was "deposited into a lower-than-intended orbit." The company is now analyzing whether the satellite can use its onboard propulsion system to adjust its orbit.

Aside from that malfunction, all went well for the SpaceX mission. Dragon is due to return to Earth near the end of October, after all cargo is unloaded and reloaded. 

SpaceX, a private space transport company from California, stepped in as America's new form of transportation to the ISS after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet throughout 2011. This retirement left American astronauts with no way to get to the ISS, except onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket -- which has become pretty pricey. 

It was clear that the U.S. needed a new way to send supplies to and from the ISS, and SpaceX was happy to provide its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. 

Dragon is set to make its next cargo run for the NASA contact in January 2013. 

SpaceX is also working on a Dragon capsule that can be manned by astronauts, and hopes to send the first manned Dragon to the ISS between 2015 and 2017. 

Sources: Boston.com, Reuters



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RE: So it begins!
By Amiga500 on 10/10/2012 6:14:31 PM , Rating: 2
Historically NASA did a lot of the design work (at the Marshall or Goddard Centres), then farmed out manufacture (except in instances where rockets were modified from USAF missiles).

Correctly so too - it makes sense for private companies to do the manufacturing, as increasing production numbers (if not with the same rocket, but much of the same tools/people) with USAF ICBMs does reduce costs per rocket/missile somewhat.

There is a balance of technical risk that has to be struck - a govt body can afford (and needs to be able to afford) higher risk projects - even projects that would seem to fail* - whereas that would be fatal to a private company.

*Even learning that something doesn't work is still worth learning, so nothing that falls a bit short of its goals is a complete failure (within reason of course).


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