60-Second Space

SpaceX Private Vessel Reaches ISS

The International Space Station received its first commercial visitor with the arrival of the SpaceX Dragon resupply capsule. John Matson reports

It may lack the poetry of “the Eagle has landed,” but here’s major space news: the Dragon has docked.

The Dragon capsule, built by dot-com magnate Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, is the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. It left Earth Tuesday. “And launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as NASA turns to the private sector to resupply the International Space Station."

All previous resupply flights have been operated by national space agencies such as NASA. The Dragon’s flight was meant to demonstrate the capsule’s capabilities, and the spacecraft had to pass a series of tests on the way to the station before NASA cleared it for approach.

On Friday, May 25th, astronauts aboard the ISS used a robotic arm to grab the free-floating Dragon capsule and hauled it in for docking. By 12:02 P.M., the spacecraft was firmly attached to the station.

Under a $1.6-billion contract with NASA, SpaceX plans to make 12 cargo runs to the station in the coming years. And someday the Dragon capsule could carry not just cargo but astronauts. Says Musk, “It's the dawn of a new era of space exploration.”

—John Matson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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