Canadarm nabs capsule
LONGUEUIL, Que.—Canada’s robotic arm on the International Space Station was put to work yesterday when it grabbed a cargo ship that arrived at the orbiting space lab.
The unmanned capsule, built by California-based SpaceX, brought supplies to the space station—the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.
Then they firmly latched it down.
“Looks like we’ve tamed the Dragon,” reported space station commander Sunita Williams.
“We’re happy she’s on board with us.”
Williams thanked SpaceX and NASA for the delivery, especially the chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream stashed in a freezer.
The link-up occurred 400 km above the Pacific, just west of Baja California, two-and-a-half days after the Dragon’s launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
“Nice flying,” radioed NASA’s Mission Control.
It’s the second visit by a Dragon capsule to the orbiting lab. The first was a test flight last spring.
The $1.6-billion contract between SpaceX and NASA calls for 12 shipments.
The commercial supply ship arrived with more than 450 kg of groceries, clothes, science experiments, and other gear.
But Williams and her crew won’t have access to it until today, when the hatch is opened.
The capsule will return with twice as much cargo as it took up, including a stockpile of blood and urine samples from astronauts.
The samples—nearly 500 of them—have been stashed in freezers since Atlantis made the last shuttle flight in July, 2011.
The Dragon will spend close to three weeks at the space station before being released and parachuting into the Pacific at the end of October.
SpaceX—owned by PayPal’s billionaire creator Elon Musk—launched Dragon aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Sunday night.
One of the nine first-stage engines failed a minute into the flight, but the other engines compensated and managed to put the capsule into the proper orbit.
The mishap, however, left a secondary payload aboard the rocket—an Orbcomm communication satellite—in too low of an orbit.
NASA is counting on private business to restock the space station now that U.S. shuttles have retired to museums.
SpaceX, meanwhile, is working to convert its unmanned Dragon capsules into vessels that could carry astronauts to the space station in three years.