On Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Space Launch Complex-40 is ablaze as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 3:44 a.m. EDT, May 22, 2012.
Credit: NASA/Rick Wetherington, Tim Powers and Tim Terry
SpaceX's Dragon capsule carrying just over 1, 000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station, but cannot dock itself at the orbiting lab. Instead, the capsule will fly near the station on Friday and allow astronauts aboard the outpost to grab it with a robotic arm and attach the vehicle to an open docking port.
The space stations' six-man crew is expected to enter the gumdrop-shaped spacecraft on Saturday. SpaceX plans to have the Dragon capsule return to Earth on May 31, when it is due to splash down in the Pacific Ocean and be retrieved by a recovery ship crew.
SpaceX has a .6 billion NASA contract to provide 12 Dragon flights to deliver supplies to the space station. It is one of several NASA contracts aimed at filling American space transportation needs now that the agency's shuttle fleet is retired.
Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook
You might also like:
NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services: A New Era in Spaceflight - History of International Space Station (ISS) Cargo and Crew, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow
eBooks (Progressive Management)