Flying high above the Pacific, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft scored one giant step for commercial space cargo at 12:02pm ET today as it berthed with the International Space Station (ISS). Over 1800 SpaceX employees will spend the day celebrating the end at the top of a very long climb'that is, before they get back to a very busy schedule.
Dragon made its flight tests look almost too easy, as the spacecraft, controlled from below by the SpaceX team in Hawthorne, California, zipped through its COTS Demo Flight 2 and 3 yesterday. Early today, astronauts aboard the ISS made contact with Dragon and turned on a strobe to begin the transition of control of the spacecraft from ground to orbit if necessary.
This morning at about 8:56am ET, Dragon shut down its thrusters and drifted to about 8 meters from the ISS. NASA astronaut Don Pettit extended the Canadarm2 robotic manipulator and captured Dragon by its grapple fixture. Slowly and carefully moving the spacecraft in, he took about two hours to hang it on the station's Earth-facing Harmony node. Harmony, otherwise known as Node 2, is the core of the ISS and hosts laboratories from both Europe and Japan. Australia passed underneath the two spacecraft as Pettit made the final attachment and allowed the arm to go limp.