Dragon cargo space capsule SpaceX arrives at International Space Station

Mar 04 2013, 12:34 IST
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SummaryA privately built robotic space capsule equipped with essential supplies for the International Space Station successfully arrived at the orbiting laboratory today.

A privately built robotic Dragon cargo space capsule SpaceX equipped with essential supplies for the International Space Station successfully arrived at the orbiting laboratory today.

The unmanned Dragon cargo capsule, built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX, was captured by astronauts wielding the space station's robotic arm at IST 16:00 as both spacecraft sailed 391 kilometres above Northern Ukraine, Space.com reported.

"Congratulations to the SpaceX and the Dragon team in Houston and in California," space station commander Kevin Ford, a NASA astronaut, radioed Mission Control after the successful Dragon arrival.

The Dragon space capsule is packed with 544 kilogrammes of supplies for the International Space Station, which includes fresh food, science experiments and other vital equipment.

SpaceX launched the Dragon capsule towards the space station on Friday with the spacecraft riding the company's Falcon 9 rocket into orbit.

While the launch was smooth, the Dragon capsule faced a brief technical glitch after it separated from the Falcon 9 rocket when three of four thruster pods did not activate as planned.

After several hours of troubleshooting, SpaceX engineers isolated the glitch to a pressurisation problem in the thruster system and devised a fix that solved the issue.

The spacecraft's arrival today appeared to go smoothly, with the capsule being captured by the station's robotic arm an hour earlier than scheduled.

"That was a brilliant capture," NASA astronaut Kate Rubins radioed the station crew from Mission Control in Houston.

The capsule is also carrying two grapple bars for the station's exterior inside an unpressurised "trunk" - a storage compartment in a cylindrical section of the spacecraft below its re-entry capsule.

This mission is SpaceX's third flight to the space station and second official cargo delivery under a USD 1.6 billion deal with NASA for resupply flights.

The Dragon spacecraft that arrived at the space station will be attached to an open docking port on the outpost's Harmony connecting module later today, with unpacking scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The spacecraft will stay linked to the space station until March 25, when it will be plucked free using the robotic arm and released back into space.

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