The following is an excerpt from William Harwood | October 10, 2012 | CBSNews.com |
After getting off to a rocky start with an engine failure during launch Sunday, a commercial cargo capsule loaded with a half-ton of equipment and supplies, including ice cream, carried out a flawless final approach to the International Space Station early Wednesday, pulling up to within 60 feet so Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, operating the lab’s robot arm, could pluck it out of open space for berthing.
Making the first of at least 12 cargo deliveries under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, the SpaceX Dragon capsule, after a successful test flight last May, is the first commercially developed spacecraft to visit the station, the centerpiece of a push to restore U.S. resupply capability in the wake of the space shuttle’s retirement last year.
Hoshide used station’s robot arm to latch onto a grapple fixture on the side of the Dragon capsule at 6:56 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) as the two spacecraft sailed 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California.
“Houston, station on (channel) two, capture complete,” Expedition 33 commander Sunita Williams radioed. “Looks like we’ve tamed the dragon. We’re happy she’s on board with us. Thanks to everybody at SpaceX and NASA for bringing her here to us. And the ice cream.”
“We copy, Suni, nice flying,” replied astronaut Rick Sturckow from mission control. “We’ll put the post-capture configuration in work.”
Williams and Hoshide planned to berth the Dragon capsule at the Earth-facing port of the forward Harmony module to complete the capture sequence.
The long-awaited mission began with a spectacular launch Sunday night from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. But during the climb to space, one of the Falcon 9 booster’s nine first-stage engines malfunctioned and shut down, forcing the flight computer to fire the other engines longer than planned to compensate for the shortfall.
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