SpaceX: Station captures Dragon in first commercial cargo mission

The International Space Station successfully "captured" the SpaceX Dragon capsule on its first commercial space cargo mission, NASA announced Wednesday.

The capsule met up with the space station at 3:56 a.m. Arizona time, NASA tweeted.

"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon," SpaceX quoted ISS commander Sunita Williams as saying.

California-based SpaceX had announced that the space station crew would use a robotic arm to "grapple" the capsule, which is filled with 1,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts.

The unmanned capsule will be bolted into place for its two-and-a-half-week stay. After the supplies are pulled off, astronauts will reload the craft with scientific experiments and failed equipment that can be repaired and sent back.

SpaceX launched the mission Sunday night. But a minute and 19 seconds after the Falcon 9 booster lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, one of the nine Merlin engines that power the rocket "lost pressure suddenly," the company disclosed Monday.

The rocket "did exactly what it was designed to do," as its flight computer made adjustments to keep the Dragon headed into the proper orbit, the company said.

Controllers are reviewing flight data in an effort to figure out what happened to the booster rocket, but initial readings indicate that an engine fairing broke apart under stress.

Sunday's launch was the first of a dozen freight runs that SpaceX is slated to make to the station under a contract with NASA, which plans to turn much of its focus toward exploring deep into the solar system. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called it "a critical event in space flight."

SpaceX, founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, is looking beyond cargo flights to develop a version of the Dragon that would carry astronauts to the ISS. It's one of three companies, along with Sierra Nevada and aerospace giant Boeing, that NASA has chosen to work on the project.

Within the next few months, Orbital Sciences is expected to fly its own demonstration flight to the space station. Instead of using Cape Canaveral as its launch site, the company's rocket will take off from Wallops Island, off the coast of Virginia. Orbital has a nearly $2 billion contract with NASA for station resupply missions.

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