After a recent SpaceX test flight landing ended in failure, co-founder Elon Musk was optimistic that the supply ship Dragon would make it safely to the International Space Station (ISS). Now he and NASA can breathe easily, because the SpaceX Dragon supply ship has finally made its delivery to the astronauts on the ISS.
According to the Associated Press, the SpaceX rocket safely connected with the ISS on Monday morning, bringing life support equipment and replenishing food supplies, which had gotten a little low. SpaceX had sent up more than 5,000 pounds of cargo. The Dragon ship was berthed with a robotic arm called the Canadarm2 Remote Manipulator System, operated by ISS Commander Butch Wilmore.
NASA Space Flight reported that the SpaceX Dragon ventured to the ISS using a set of quad thrusters using pressurized fuel tanks and the injection of helium gas. After arriving close to the ISS, the Dragon fired off two shorter burns to close gaps of 2,500, 1,200, 250, 30 and 10 meters until finally coming in contact with the station.
— NASA (@NASA) January 12, 2015
The SpaceX ship could not have come at a better time. Food and supplies at the ISS were getting nervously low after a failed launch in October by another space company destroyed the cargo in a vessel explosion. This forced NASA to rush another shipment of supplies out to the ISS on the SpaceX Dragon, before the orbiting astronauts ran completely out of supplies. Thankfully, all of the Dragon’s cargo has been brought into the station and accounted for, much to the relief of the crew.
“We’re excited to have it on board,” said Commander Wilmore. “We’ll be digging in soon.”
To get supplies into space, NASA has been hiring private companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. But after the failed October launch by Orbital, SpaceX will be taking over the shipments until 2016.
Along with food and supplies, the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship brought along equipment for various science experiments to be conducted in orbit. This includes a NASA instrument for measuring climate change. IMAX camera equipment also came along, for high-resolution snapshots during ISS space walks.
Dragon also brought along belated Christmas gifts for the crew of the ISS, since the December launch was delayed. You can see two crew members aboard the ISS, Italian Fighter pilot Sam Cristoforetti and USAF Colonel Terry Virts, looking grateful for their Christmas presents in the photo below.