At 9:56am ET today, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule was successfully captured by the International Space Station (ISS). The heavenly meet-up marks the first time in history that a privately-funded spacecraft has visited the ISS.
“Looks like we caught a Dragon by the tail,” said Don Pettit, a NASA engineer, following the successful docking of Dragon..
— NASA (@NASA) May 25, 2012
Dragon launched into space early Tuesday morning on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. On Thursday, Dragon went through a practice run of its dock with ISS, successfully flying 1.6 miles below the space station — a relatively close distance in space.
Dragon’s final approach toward ISS began at around 3am ET today, according to NASA. Associated Press reports that there was some delay this morning, thanks to some reflections off of the Japanese portion of the ISS, which caused some interference with Dragon’s laser-based sensors. The total official mission time clocked in at 3 days, 6 hours ,19 minutes, and 13 second.
The Dragon capsule is carrying about 1,367 pounds worth of unessential supplies to the astronauts aboard ISS. This includes food, clothing, and a number of student projects.
The success of SpaceX marks the beginning of a new era for U.S. space travel. Following the retirement of the NASA shuttle program last summer, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get back and forth from ISS.
Dragon is expected to return to Earth on May 31.
To watch the live video of ISS wrangling in Dragon, click here.
CORRECTION: Dragon has not yet docked with ISS, as was previously reported. It has been captured by an robotic arm on the the ISS.