The first private rocket company in the world — SpaceX of Hawthorne, California — has just achieved a big goal for space exploration: its Dragon spaceship has successfully docked overnight with the International Space Station.
This is the first official resupply mission for the ISS, under contract with NASA. It has been flawless: the stage two of the docking operation was completed while the ISS was flying over the south Atlantic, somewhere between Africa and South America.
The Dragon capsule was captured at 9.56pm AEDT, when Expedition 33 crew member Akihiko Hoshid of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency used the station's robotic arm to grab Dragon as it approached the ISS. The Expedition 33 Commander, NASA's Sunita Williams, said: "Looks like we've tamed the Dragon. We're happy she's on board with us."
The Californian company, led by Elon Musk, launched Dragon on October 7, 2012, on top of its two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. The mission — the first SpaceX operation under its Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA — followed a series of successes that culminated on May with the SpaceX COTS Demo Flight 2, the first time a private spacecraft docked with the International Space Station.
The Dragon, now docked to the ISS, is packed with over 900kg of goodies, including supplies for the crew, material for experiments, hardware and other assorted supplies.
When it returns, it will bring the the same weight, including hardware, science experiments, supplies and spacesuit equipment.
Congratulations to SpaceX for another remarkable success and giving us hope that soon astronauts will be able to reach orbit on their own means.