SpaceX cargo ship reaches International Space Station

10 October 2012
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida

The SpaceX commercial cargo ship has landed on the International Space Station, a key manouevre in the first US supply run to the orbital outpost since the retirement of the cargo-hauling space shuttles last year.

After a two-and-a-half day trip, Space Exploration Technologies' Dragon cargo ship positioned itself 33ft (10m) away from the $100bn research complex, a project of 15 countries, which has been dependent on Russian, European and Japanese freighters for supplies.

Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide then used the space station's 58ft long robotic arm to grab hold of a grapple fixture on the side of the capsule at 6:56am EDT (1056 GMT) as the spacecraft flew 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Baja California in northwest Mexico.

"Looks like we tamed the Dragon," commander Sunita Williams radioed to Mission Control in Houston. "We're happy she's on board with us. Thanks to everybody at SpaceX and Nasa for bringing her here to us. And the ice cream." 

The Dragon's cargo includes a freezer to ferry science samples back and forth between the station and Earth. For the flight up, it was packed with chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream, a rare treat for an orbiting crew.

Williams and Hoshide were scheduled to berth the capsule to a docking port on the station's Harmony connecting module at about 9:40am EDT (1340 GMT). It is expected to remain attached to the station for about 18 days while the crew unloads its cargo and fills it with science experiments and equipment no longer needed on the outpost.

The flight is the first of 12 planned under a $1.6bn contract Nasa placed with privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, to deliver cargo to the station.

The US space agency's second supplier, Orbital Sciences, plans to debut its Antares rocket later this year.

A demonstration run to the station is planned for February or March.

Nasa also is working with SpaceX, Boeing and privately owned Sierra Nevada to design space taxis that can fly crew to and from the station, with the goal of breaking Russia's monopoly on crew ferry flights by 2017.

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