Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Dragon spacecraft of private space technology company Space X berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday in a successful fourth consecutive resupply mission to the orbiting platform.
The space freighter approached the ISS early morning and was grappled by the latter’s robotic arm at 7:14 a.m. for attachment to the port of the ISS’s Harmony module. Astronauts in the space station are getting 5,000 pounds of cargo from the Dragon, including scientific experiments and satellites. There is a space garden that investigates efficient ways to grow plants in space.
The Dragon was launched by Space X’s experimental reusable rocket called Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Friday, 3:25 p.m. EDT. The launch marked the first successful test of Falcon 9, which aims to bring down the cost of space transport. The rocket is capable of engine burns that allow it to land safely in the Atlantic Ocean for recovery.
Space X has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly 12 cargo resupply mission to the ISS. Its spacecraft is unmanned but will accommodate at least two crews in the future.
It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. The company made history again in May 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, exchanged cargo payloads, and returned safely to Earth — a technically challenging feat previously accomplished only by governments.