Private Spacecraft to Fly Near ISS

Posted May 24th, 2012 at 5:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The privately-built Dragon space capsule has begun a series of maneuvers around the International Space Station to prepare for Friday's scheduled rendezvous and docking with the orbital outpost.

The U.S. space agency NASA says the unmanned Dragon capsule will fly to within 2.5. kilometers of the ISS as it conducts several procedures to test the capsule's on-board flight systems.

If Thursday's procedures are successful, the Dragon capsule will fly close to the ISS and placed into a position where it can be captured by the station's robotic arm and berthed at one of the ISS's docking ports. The station's six-member crew will then spend the next two weeks unloading over 500 kilograms of suppllies from the Dragon 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. The U.S. space agency 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.