SpaceX cargo ship arrives at International Space Station

Posted Apr 20, 2014

SpaceX’s cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday with supplies and science experiments for the crew.

The cargo ship also contained a pair of legs for a humanoid robot aboard that may be used for a spacewalk. Station commander Koichi Wakata used the 58-foot robotic crane to grab the Dragon capsule from orbit at 7:14AM, which ended its 36 hour journey.

The International Space Station was hovering 260 miles over the Nile River at that time. Around three years later, the crew at the I.S.S. bolted the capsule to a docking port on the station’s Harmony module and it will start being unpacked on Monday.

“The Easter Dragon is knocking at the door,” said astronaut Randy Bresnik to Mission Control in Houston.

SpaceX was planning to launch the Dragon cargo ship in March, but it had to be delayed due to technical problems such as a damaged U.S. Air Force radar tracking system. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying Dragon lifted off at 3:25PM on Friday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Once the Falcon 9 first-stage section separate from the upper-stage motor and Dragon capsule, the discarded rocket relit some of the engines to slow its fall back through the atmosphere, positioning itself to touch down vertically on the ocean before gravity turned it horizontal. The booster also contained four 25-foot-long landings for stabilization.

Data that was transmitted from an airplane tracking the booster’s descent indicated that it splashed down intact in the Atlantic Ocean, which is a first for the company.

SpaceX is hoping to return a Falcon 9 booster to land before the end of the year. SpaceX would like to recover and reuse its rockets to reduce launch costs in the future.

“I think we’ve got a decent chance of bringing a stage back this year, which would be wonderful,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.