SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship successfully reached the International Space Station on Monday to deliver some late Christmas gifts to scientists 262 miles above the Mediterranean Sea. It was the first U.S. cargo ship to run to the ISS in four months. Astronauts inside the space station used a robotic crane to capture the Dragon ship from orbit at 5:54 AM EST on Monday. It reached the ISS 18 minutes ahead of the schedule, said NASA.
The Dragon flight was flawless
ISS commander Butch Wilmore told the Mission Control in Houston that they were excited to have the cargo ship on board. The Dragon capsule carried 5,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and scientific experiments. NASA said the Dragon flight was flawless.
The launch of Dragon was delayed twice due to technical difficulties. It was the first capsule to reach the station after a huge explosion during Orbital Sciences Corp’s Antares rocket launch in October. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have won NASA contracts worth a combined $3.5 billion for resupply missions.
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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Saturday. After sending the Dragon capsule on its way to the orbit, the rocket turned back for a landing on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean, about 200 miles of the coast. However, the 14-story tall rocket hit the platform too hard, causing minor damage to the ship.
SpaceX’s next flight will have 50% more hydraulic fluid
Hitting the platform bolstered confidence that the company could land and reuse its rockets in the future. SpaceX founder Elon Musk says reusing the rocket could dramatically reduce the cost of launch. “Bodes well for the future,” said Elon Musk in a tweet. SpaceX will once again try to land the rocket on its next mission, scheduled for January 29 liftoff.
Meanwhile, SpaceX engineers reviewed the company’s “near successful” effort to land the first stage of Falcon 9 rocket. Musk said that the supersonic grid fin system, which stabilizes the rocket, ran out of hydraulic fluid right before the landing. The next flight will have 50% more hydraulic fluid.