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SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully docked at the International Space Station

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The SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully docked at the International Space Station, making it the first commercial craft ever to berth at the ISS.

SpaceX Dragon
SpaceX Dragon

The SpaceX Dragon capsule has just been successfully "captured" by the International Space Station. This marks the first time a commercial craft has ever landed at the ISS, as well as a huge step forward for private space flight. A few minutes ago, the capsule was grappled to the Station by a robotic arm; it will remain unopened until a routine air inspection can be performed. Over the course of the next two weeks, about 1,000 pounds of food and supplies will be unloaded, and the capsule will be refilled. After that, it will disengage from the Station and return to Earth, landing hundreds of miles from the California coast.

It has been a little over three days since the Dragon was launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The launch was delayed several times but finally occurred on the morning of May 22nd. After that, the Dragon's flight progressed smoothly, and it was cleared to approach the ISS. Over the next several hours, it adjusted its course to the Station, stopping frequently to ensure that acceleration and braking were performing reliably before coming in range of the Station.

SpaceX, founded by PayPal's Elon Musk, was one of several private companies to receive NASA funds as part of the space agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services agreement. Its first test flight, in 2010, sent a craft into low-Earth orbit and recovered it, paving the way for this mission. Now that the Dragon capsule has successfully docked, SpaceX is in the clear to proceed with its contract, which covers a minimum of 12 flights taking supplies to and from the ISS. Eventually, it hopes to be able to ferry astronauts to and from the Station, a task that is currently performed by Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Update: The capsule has now successfully docked at the ISS and is awaiting opening. If you didn't catch the docking as it happened live, you can watch a video of the whole thing here.