A privately built robotic cargo ship has been cleared to link up with the International Space Station early Sunday (March 3) after a review by its builders and NASA. The cargo ship's arrival will be one day later than planned due to a thruster issue, since fixed, that cropped up shortly after its Friday launch.
The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by the SpaceX spaceflight company, is on track to be captured by the space station's robotic arm at 6:01 a.m. EST (1101 GMT) and attached to an open docking port shortly afterward. The cargo ship is hauling 1, 200 pounds (544 kilograms) of food, experiments and other supplies for the station's six-man crew.
"Just received #Dragon docking clearance from @NASA, " SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk wrote in a Twitter post today. "Will begin orbital maneuvers to Space Station at 11pm Pacific time."
Stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere also have a chance to see the Dragon spacecraft in the night sky tonight as it chases the space station. The two spacecraft will appear as fast-moving lights in the sky to observers who know when and where to look. [How to spot Dragon in the night sky]
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars toward space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on March 1, 2013 at 10:10 a.m. EST, carrying a Dragon capsule filled with cargo for the International Space Station.
SpaceX's Dragon space capsule mission is the company's third flight to the International Space Station and second official resupply flight for NASA under a $1.6 billion cargo delivery contract. In all, SpaceX plans to launch 12 missions to the space station under the deal.
The mission hit an unexpected snag shortly after the Dragon capsule launched into space atop its SpaceX-built Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After separating from the rocket, three of the spacecraft's four thruster pods did not activate as planned. NASA requires at least three functioning thruster pods on the Dragon capsule in order to allow a docking attempt. [See video of SpaceX's Dragon and Falcon 9 launch]
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NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services: A New Era in Spaceflight - History of International Space Station (ISS) Cargo and Crew, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow
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