SpaceX’s Dragon capsule has officially docked with the International Space Station (ISS), marking the first official commercial mission to resupply the space station.
The Dragon capsule was captured by the ISS on Wednesday after a series of delicate maneuvers, allowing the Hawthorne-based corporation, also known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., to come closer to being the first private company to resupply the space station under a contract with NASA, reports The Los Angeles Times.
The ISS crew used the space station’s robotic arm to capture the unmanned Dragon capsule while it floated outside. The monumental event occurred at about 3:56 am PDT, and was a key moment for NASA’s goal to outsource supply missions to private companies now that its own fleet of space shuttles is retired. The Chicago Tribune notes that NASA astronaut Sunita Williams stated:
“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.”
The SpaceX Dragon capsule’s cargo includes a freezer that will ferry science samples back and forth between the International Space Station and Earth. For its first official flight to the space station, the freezer was packed with chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream — a rare treat for the ISS crew.
This flight is the first of 12 planned under the contract between NASA and SpaceX, which will give the private company $1.6 billion. The US space agency also has a second supplier in Orbital Sciences Corp., who plans to debut their Antares rocket later this year. The company plans a demonstration run to the station in February or March.
NASA is also working with SpaceX, Boeing Co, and Sierra Nevada Corp to design a space taxi that can fly crew back and forth between the station. Their goal is to break Russia’s monopoly on the flights by the year 2017.