The successful docking of the SpaceX Dragon capsule with the International Space Station Friday is a landmark moment in opening space to wider use, NASA officials say.
The first commercially operated cargo ship destined for the International Space Station entered the record books Friday when the station's crew confirmed that SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft was securely docked to the orbiting outpost.
Dragon cleared its first major hurdle of the day Friday when station flight engineer Don Petitt, the mission's grappler-in-chief, captured the Dragon capsule with the station's robotic arm as the craft free-floated some 30 feet from the docking port.
Without skipping a beat, he deadpanned, “We're thinking this sim[ulation] went really well. We're ready to turn it around and do it for real,” as applause and hugs broke out in two control rooms – NASA's and SpaceX's at the company's Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters.
Until its conclusion on May 31, the mission remains a test flight – combining into one mission the objectives initially planned for two launches this year. But its success so far signals that a company NASA has helped nurture can perform the difficult feat of lofting a craft capable of catching up with another spacecraft traveling at faster-than-bullet speeds, matching its pace, and safely docking with it – something no other privately-operated spacecraft has done.
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