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SpaceX's Dragon capsule docks with space station

English.news.cn   2012-10-11 04:50:01            

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday morning to make the first-ever commercial cargo delivery to the orbiting lab.

According to U.S. space agency NASA, Dragon was captured by station crew using Canadarm2 robotic arm and installed to the station's docking port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node at 9:03 a.m. EDT (1303 GMT).

"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon," station commander Sunita Williams said as the spacecraft was captured by a robotic arm. "We 're happy she's onboard with us. Thanks to everyone at SpaceX and NASA for bringing her to us... and the ice cream."

SpaceX launched Dragon on Sunday night. This is the first of 12 contracted flights by SpaceX to resupply the space station and marks the second trip by a Dragon to the station, following a successful demonstration mission in May.

The capsule is packed with about 1,000 pounds (454 kg) of cargo, including experiment hardware, a freezer, spare parts, clothing and food. Taking advantage of the freezer, ice cream was included, a rare treat for space crews. It is also carrying 23 microgravity experiments designed by students.

The capsule is slated to return in late October with about 2, 000 pounds (907 kg), including scientific experiments and failed equipment that can be repaired and sent back.

The SpaceX Dragon is the only space station cargo craft designed to safely return to Earth, a critical capability that was lost when NASA's space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft that ferry crews to and from the space station can only carry a few hundred pounds of small items back to Earth. All other station vehicles -- unmanned Russian Progress supply ships and European and Japanese cargo craft -- burn up during re-entry.

Before Dragon's liftoff, flights to the space station have always been a government-only affair.

Until their retirement last summer, U.S. space shuttles carried most of the gear and many of the astronauts to the orbiting outpost. Since then, American astronauts have had to rely on Russian capsules for rides. European, Japanese and Russian supply ships have been delivering cargo.

NASA is looking to the private sector, in this post-shuttle era, to get American astronauts launching again from U.S. soil. It will be at least four to five years before SpaceX or any other private operator is capable of flying astronauts.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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