Another Milestone: SpaceX Dragon Capsule Attaches to Space Station
The International Space Station’s Expedition 31 crew grappled and attached SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to the space station Friday. This is the first time a commercial company has accomplished this type of space operation.
“Today marks another critical step in the future of American spaceflight,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Now that a U.S. company has proven its ability to resupply the space station, it opens a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space — and new job creation opportunities right here in the U.S. By handing off space station transportation to the private sector, NASA is freed up to carry out the really hard work of sending astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before. ”
The Dragon capsule lifted off Tuesday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The demonstration mission is the second under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which provides investments intended to lead to regular resupply missions to the space station and stimulate the commercial space industry in America.
The Dragon capsule is delivering 1,014 pounds of supplies to the station, which includes non-critical experiments, food, clothing and technology. Crew members will open the hatch to the capsule Saturday and unload the cargo during a four-day period. Dragon then will be loaded with 1,367 pounds of hardware and cargo no longer needed aboard the station in preparation for the spacecraft’s return to Earth. Dragon and station hatches will be closed on May 30.
On May 31, the Expedition 31 crew members will detach Dragon from Harmony, maneuver it to a 33-foot release point and un-grapple the capsule. Dragon will deorbit approximately four hours after leaving the station, taking about 30 minutes to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and landing in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles west of southern California.