SpaceX capsule links up with ISS: Nasa

2012-10-10 17:56
The Dragon capsule captured by a robot arm on the International Space Station as they passed over the South Atlantic Ocean. (AP Photo/Nasa)

The Dragon capsule captured by a robot arm on the International Space Station as they passed over the South Atlantic Ocean. (AP Photo/Nasa)

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Washington - A capsule on the first privately-run resupply mission successfully linked up on Wednesday with the International Space Station, the US space agency Nasa said.

A robot arm operated by two of the six astronauts aboard the space station snatched the unmanned Dragon capsule at 10:56 GMT, more than thirty minutes ahead of schedule, it said.

The docking was completed at 13:03 GMT after the ISS crew inspected the capsule's condition with the help of cameras, Nasa said.

SpaceX, the private company owned by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched the Dragon on Sunday evening atop a Falcon 9 rocket from an air base in Cape Canaveral, Florida near the Kennedy Space Centre.

The mission was the first of a dozen ISS supply runs that Nasa has contracted out to SpaceX under a four-year, $1.6bn contract, fulfilling a role once carried out by Nasa's now retired shuttle fleet.

The capsule is loaded with 400kg of equipment and material for scientific experiments that will be conducted by an ISS crew commanded by American astronaut Sunita Williams.

The cargo also includes food, clothing and other necessities for the international crew, which besides Williams includes three Russians, a Japanese and another American astronaut.

Dragon is currently the only spacecraft capable of ferrying cargo from the space station back to Earth, and on its return voyage scheduled for 28 October will carry back 562kg of equipment and material.

Flawless test flight

It is supposed to land by parachute off the coast of southern California.

Nasa has been relying on Russian spacecraft for the last year, after retiring its fleet of shuttles - but the Soyuz craft does not have room for cargo on the return flight.

SpaceX's May mission - a nearly flawless nine-day test flight to deliver cargo to the $100bn orbiting station - marked the first time a commercial outfit had sent its own capsule there and back.

SpaceX says it has 50 launches planned - both Nasa missions and commercial flights - representing about $4bn in contracts.

So far, SpaceX has only sent unmanned flights into orbit, but the company aims to send a manned flight within the next three or four years. It is under a separate contract with Nasa to refine the capsule so that it can carry a crew.

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