Private Spacecraft to Dock with ISS

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 6:35 am (UTC-5)
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The privately-built and owned Space X Dragon spacecraft is heading to the International Space Station for Friday's historic docking with the orbital outpost.

Ground controllers fired the engines on the unmanned cargo ship early Friday morning to place it on a course towards the ISS. Once it is in position, two of the ISS crew members will use the station's robotic arm to capture the Dragon and attach it to a docking port.

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.

Ground controllers with the U.S. space agency NASA and the Space X company successfully tested the Dragon's on-board flight systems as it flew within 2.5 kilometers of the ISS.

This is the first time a private company has launched a cargo ship to the space station, beginning a new phase in the U.S. space program. NASA is turning to Space X and other companies to ferry supplies, and eventually astronauts, to the space station, taking over for the now-retired space shuttle fleet.

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.