SpaceX's Dragon makes historic space station dock

SpaceX on Friday became the first commercial outfit to send its own cargo capsule to the International Space Station, heralding the start of a new era for private spaceflight.

The berthing marked the climax of the California-based company's demonstration mission to become the first to restore US access to the space outpost after NASA retired the three-decade shuttle program last year.

With no humans on board, the Dragon capsule is delivering about a half ton of supplies and science experiments for the ISS, and aims to return a slightly larger load of gear to Earth on May 31.

"There was so much that could have gone wrong, and it went right," SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk, a billionaire Internet entrepreneur, told reporters after the berthing was complete.

"This is really going to be recognized as a significantly historical step forward in space travel, and hopefully the first of many to come."

The Dragon is toting 521 kilograms (1,148 pounds) of goodies for the space lab, including food, supplies, computers, utilities and science experiments. It plans to return a 660-kilogram load to Earth.

The hatches are set to open at 7:40 am (1140 GMT) on Saturday so that the unloading can begin, NASA said.

"It looks like we got us a Dragon by the tail," said US astronaut Don Pettit, who was operating the Canadian-built robotic arm from the space station as it reached out and captured the unmanned SpaceX capsule at 9:56 am (1356 GMT).

A formal berthing brought the capsule closer to latch on at the station's Harmony module at 12:02 pm (1602 GMT), NASA said.

"I can't tell you how proud we are to have been a part of this historic moment," said ISS program manager Mike Suffredini, adding that the spacecraft had "performed nearly flawlessly" since its launch on Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

John Holdren, assistant to President Barack Obama for science and technology policy, hailed the mission as "an achievement of historic scientific and technological significance and a key milestone in President Obama's vision for America's continued leadership in space."

The US space shuttle program ended in 2011, leaving only Russia capable of carrying astronauts and cargo to the ISS and back to Earth.

The space agencies of Japan and Europe have supply ships that can ferry cargo to the ISS but cannot return to Earth intact, and those missions are set to end in the coming years, Suffredini said.

That means SpaceX and its competitor Orbital Sciences Corporation would become the chief cargo servicers of the $100 billion space station, which is set to remain operational until 2020.

"Between those two spacecraft, they will supply the lion's share of the cargo to the International Space Station for the life of the station," Suffredini said.

The berthing mission opens the way for SpaceX's $1.6 billion contract with NASA to supply the space station and return cargo to Earth in 12 missions over the coming years.

Suffredini said the next cargo supply mission by SpaceX is tentatively set for September.

Orbital Sciences also has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to supply the space station and is scheduled for its first test flight in August, followed by a demonstration mission to the ISS in December, Suffredini said.

SpaceX hopes its gumdrop-shaped Dragon capsule will be able to carry astronauts to the ISS in about three years' time. Until then, US astronauts must pay Russia about $63 million per seat aboard the Soyuz.

SpaceX and a handful of other companies are using their own funds but are also being helped in their endeavors with seed money from NASA to build cargo and crew capability.

SpaceX is the brainchild of Musk, a 40-year-old billionaire who made his fortune founding a company that later merged with the PayPal online service, bought by Internet auction giant eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

Today he leads SpaceX, Tesla Motors -- a venture marketing electric cars -- and SolarCity, a company that makes solar panels for homes and businesses.

Musk said alcohol had been prohibited from the Hawthorne, California headquarters -- where the average age of SpaceX employees is 30 -- until the berthing mission was complete.

"But now that things are good I think we will probably have a bit of champagne and have some fun, yeah," he said to hoots and hollers from employees gathered around.

"It is best to be very sober in these circumstances until the deed is done."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions
    U.N. chief appeals to Indonesia not to carry out executions

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to Indonesia on Saturday not to execute 10 prisoners, including two Australians, for drug-related crimes. Indonesia has so far informed seven of the 10 death row inmates, including the Australians and one Nigerian, that they will be executed in a matter of days, possibly as soon as Tuesday. Nationals from Brazil, Ghana and the Philippines are also on Indonesia's death row. A temporary reprieve was granted to a French citizen who will not …

  • Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions
    Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions

    Indonesia on Sunday signalled it was determined to push ahead with the execution of eight foreign drug convicts, despite a growing wave of global condemnation led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon. Authorities on Saturday gave formal notice to the eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- that they would be executed by firing squad imminently, along with an Indonesian prisoner. The group have been moved to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, where …

  • AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys
    AFP monitoring deployment of Chinese seaplanes in Spratlys

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is adopting a wait and see approach amid reports that China will soon deploy seaplanes to further strengthen its maritime claims in the disputed Spratlys. Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, spokesman for the military and commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service, said they have yet to ascertain the real purpose behind China’s continuing aggressive moves in the region. “We will wait and see before coming up with an official stand,” Kakilala said when …

  • US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations
    US eyes access to Phl bases in 8 locations

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington’s next phase in its Asia “pivot,” deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia “pivot” has already seen US Marines rotating through the …

  • Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions
    Washington bucks China’s aggressive actions

    Short of condemning China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, a senior US military official said Washington does not support any act of coercion and bullying. “We don’t stand for coercion, bullying and aggressiveness,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant US military director for  Phl-US Joint Balikatan Exercises 2015. At the sidelines of this year’s joint military exercises’ static aircraft display held at Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Mahoney told a media briefing that …

  • ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’
    ‘Giving Bangsamoro police control is constitutional’

    The proposed grant to the chief minister of the envisioned Bangsamoro region of operational control over police forces in the area is consistent with the Constitution, a senior administration lawmaker said yesterday. It is clear in the proposed BBL that the Bangsamoro police will be part of the Philippine National Police (PNP), while the Bangsamoro Regional Police Board (BRPB) will be part of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and will carry out Napolcom’s mandate in the region,” he …

  • Noy off to KL for Asean meet
    Noy off to KL for Asean meet

    President Aquino will arrive here this afternoon with Manila hopeful of support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to achieve peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as well as economic prosperity and inclusive growth among the people in the region. Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said that with respect to the dramatic developments in the South China Sea, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had called for the early …

  • Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food
    Madrid Fusion Manila reignites Pinoy appetite for great food

    After months of preparation and hard work from both the government and private sectors, the future of food is finally here in the country’s capital. Madrid Fusión Manila opened its doors on Friday to an international delegation who eagerly awaited the discussions of some of the most renowned and revered names in the culinary world. Madrid Fusión Manila is a historic gastronomic event marked by talks and exhibitions that showcases Spain and the Philippines’ shared cultural heritage, as well as …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options