Private Spacecraft Docks with ISS

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 5:15 pm (UTC-5)
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A privately-owned spacecraft has for the first time reached the International Space Station.

The Dragon capsule, created by the U.S. corporation SpaceX, docked Friday at the space station, where astronauts there were able to receive it. The astronauts used the station's robotic arm to grab the capsule and are scheduled to open it on Saturday.

The milestone begins a new phase in the U.S. space program after the space agency, NASA, retired its shuttle fleet last year.

NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, said the way SpaceX built, tested and flew the spacecraft has been “remarkable.”

“I can't tell you how proud we are to have been a part of this historic moment. Many times as program manager of this program, I've stood in front of you and talked about historical moments, things we've done that have never been done before and this rates right at the top.”

SpaceX chief executive and billionaire Elon Musk said, “there was so much that could have gone wrong, and it went right.”

President Barack Obama's science and technology advisor, John Holdren, called the mission “an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance.”

The Dragon will remain linked with the ISS for a week so the station's crew can unload more than 500 kilograms of supplies and reload it with used equipment to be sent back to Earth.

NASA is turning to SpaceX and other private companies to ferry supplies, and eventually astronauts, to the space station, taking over for the now-retired shuttles.

Russia, Japan, and Europe have the capability to resupply the ISS, but Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is the only vehicle currently able to transport astronauts to the outpost.