Private Spacecraft Completes Maneuvers Around ISS

Posted May 24th, 2012 at 9:40 am (UTC-5)
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The privately-built Dragon space capsule has completed its fly-by around the International Space Station in preparation for Friday's rendezvous and historic docking with the orbital outpost.

The U.S. space agency NASA says the maneuvers of the unmanned Dragon capsule were successful.

NASA says the capsule flew within two kilometers of the International Space Station as it conducted key tests, including the quality of its on-board flight systems. Dragon is scheduled to fly into position for a possible docking with the ISS on Friday.

Thursday's procedures called for the Dragon capsule to move into a position where it can ultimately be captured by the International Space Station's robotic arm and berthed at one of the ISS's docking ports. The station's six-member crew will spend the next two weeks unloading more than 500 kilograms of supplies from the capsule.

The reusable spacecraft will then leave the ISS and return to Earth with used equipment.

Space X is attempting to become the first privately-owned company to launch a spacecraft to the ISS. NASA is hoping that Space X and other commercial enterprises will be able to replace the retired space shuttle fleet to ferry cargo and eventually astronauts to the ISS.

Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is the only vehicle currently able to send astronauts to the space station.