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The test flight of the unmanned Dragon capsule is designed to assess the spacecraft's ability to carry cargo to the orbiting outpost. If successful, it will mark the first time a privately built spaceship has docked with the 0 billion space station. [Gallery: Dragon, SpaceX's Private Spacecraft]
Over the past few weeks, SpaceX engineers have been preparing the Falcon 9 rocket and testing the capsule's docking software. After Dragon reaches orbit, the spacecraft will embark on a three-day chase of the space station before making its planned rendezvous.
As the capsule approaches, two astronauts aboard the station — Don Pettit of NASA and Andre Kuipers of the European Space Agency — will grab onto Dragon using the outpost's robotic arm and manually attach it to the complex.
Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly 12 robotic cargo missions to the space station as part of the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. The upcoming Dragon flight is designed to test the spacecraft's ability to ferry supplies to and from the station.
Eventually, the company intends to use a version of Dragon to carry up to seven passengers to low-Earth orbit.
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