The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that SpaceX cargo capsule, designed to resupply the International Space Station (ISS), has successfully docked the orbital station Monday morning. The launch took place Saturday morning at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Both the rocket launch and cargo ship docking were successful. However, SpaceX had some hard times trying to land the first stage rocket booster on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. However, the team would try again later, on a February mission.
The cargo capsule nicknamed Dragon was designed and launched by the Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX. SpaceX is one of the first two commercial companies to close a deal with NASA on providing services to resupply the International Space Station. The station-resupply contract is worth $1.6 billion.
This time, Dragon was loaded with 5,000 pounds of food, water, scientific equipment and science experiments needed by the ISS crew. The capsule also brought scientists belated Christmas presents since the last resupply mission was scheduled on October 28, but failed.
We apologize for Santa and his Dragon sleigh for bringing a little bit more on the Eastern Orthodox schedule and calendar,”
said the ISS’ mission control center team at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, when Dragon docked ISS.
NASA reported that Monday, at 5:54 ET, Dragon was floating 32 feet away from ISS being nearly 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Barry Wilmore, ISS commander and former US Navy pilot, and Samantha Cristoforetti, astronaut from the European Space Agency, maneuvered ISS’ robotic arm towards the capsule and gently grasped it. Minutes later it pulled it into the docking port.
The docking was a complete success. This may have also something to do with Captain Wilmore’s expertise on aircraft carriers landings. Randolph Bresnik, NASA astronaut and former marine pilot, was watching the whole operation from the Johnson Space Center. He described the docking using carrier pilot slang:
We’ll call that one an OK three-wire; not bad for a Navy guy.”
The ressuply mission’s secondary goal was to test a new landing system of the first stage rocket. SpaceX plans to be the first space company to manage to recover a first-stage rocket from the sea and reuse t on later missions. That would save billions of dollars from the federal budget.
On Saturday, ten minutes after the Cape Canaveral launch, SpaceX’s flight engineers guided the rocket towards a floating landing platform 200 miles off Florida’s coast. The landing was bumpy and they lost the rocket. It seems that the booster ran out of hydraulic fluid seconds before landing.
Image Source: Ars Technica