After a flawless launch on May 22, the SpaceX Dragon capsule has become the first commercial spacecraft to berth at the International Space Station. After a flyby last night, the capsule approached the station, and station flight engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers brought the vehicle to berth with the station's robotic arm. The capsule was bolted to the station's Harmony module at 12:02 p.m. Eastern Time.
This first flight delivered noncritical cargo for the crew of ISS Expedition 31. It's mainly a test mission for SpaceX's capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket that delivered it to orbit. Everything has gone off without a hitch.
The successful flight of Dragon paves the way for the first private, manned spaceflight. In addition to cargo, the SpaceX capsule is designed to carry up to seven astronauts, meaning that Dragon missions launched by the Falcon 9 rocket can help take over for the now-retired space shuttle. SpaceX hopes to enable Dragon's crew capabilities within three years.
Dragon's hatches will open Saturday morning, and the station crew will board to conduct some docked operations. Flight engineers Pettit, Kuipers and Joe Acaba will appear on NASA TV at 11:25 a.m. Eastern on Saturday to discuss the first private space flight to the station.
"Looks like we caught a Dragon by the tail." - Astronaut Don Pettit, after capturing @SpaceX Dragon capsule with ISS robotic arm.— NASA Kennedy / KSC (@NASAKennedy) May 25, 2012
It's a proud moment for Elon Musk, the 40-year-old founder of SpaceX and three other high-tech ventures. See Richard MacManus' full profile of Musk for more on his story.
NASA's mission status briefing on today's successful operations begins at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. You can watch it here:
Lead image courtesy of NASA TV.