CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (UPI) — Private space company SpaceX’s Dragon capsule became the first commercial cargo vessel to visit the International Space Station, NASA said Friday.
NASA and SpaceX ran tests on the unmanned Dragon as it approached the ISS at more than 17,000 mph before finally capturing the capsule with the station’s robotic arm at 9:56 a.m. EDT, Florida Today reported.
“Looks like we got us a dragon by the tail,” said U.S. astronaut Don Pettit, who operated the 58-foot robotic arm that connected with the capsule and drew it into the orbiting laboratory.
It represents a success for NASA’s commercial crew program, which has a goal of using private-sector capsules to deliver astronauts to the ISS by 2017, officials said.
“Once again SpaceX has done it, NASA commentator Josh Byerly said. “They have just become the first private company to successfully launch their own spacecraft and get captured by the space station robotic arm.”
The Dragon was launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral early Tuesday.
The successful capture occurred as the ISS was about 250 miles above northwest Australia.
After unloading of cargo, the Dragon is set to depart the station Thursday for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.