News / Science & Technology

SpaceX Makes First Cargo Delivery to Space Station

Michael Lipin, Suzanne PrestoChris Hannas
A capsule built by the first private company to fly to the International Space Station is on its way to the orbiting lab on the first official mission to deliver cargo.

California-based SpaceX launched its Dragon capsule late Sunday from Cape Canaveral on the U.S. Atlantic Coast.  The capsule is scheduled to dock with the space station early Wednesday as part of a $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. space agency NASA.

The mission follows a successful test delivery to the ISS in May.  SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said everyone feels better with each successful launch, but that getting to the space station is still a difficult task and a lot of work remains.

"We will learn from our flights and continue to improve the vehicle. Given that we are looking towards flying crew on these vehicles, we want to make sure that we address any and all items that we find and learn about the vehicle to make it even more reliable," said Shotwell.

Photo Gallery

  • This image from NASA-TV shows the capture of the Dragon capsule by a robot arm on the International Space Station as they passed over the South Atlantic Ocean early October 10, 2012.
  • A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Complex 40, carrying a Dragon capsule to orbit, Cape Canaveral, Florida, October 7, 2012. (NASA/Gianni Woods)
  • A Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule secured atop stands upright between the lightning masts on the pad at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, October 7, 2012. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)
  • A Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon capsule secured atop rises into a vertical position between the lightning masts on the pad at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, October 7, 2012. (NASA/Jim Grossmann)
  • A view from the ground looking up shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon capsule attached after it was lifted into the vertical position during a rollout demonstration test, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida October 2, 2012. (NASA/Jim Grossm
  • SpaceX technicians inspect a Dragon spacecraft as it is being attached to its Falcon 9 launch vehicle, September 30, 2012. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)
  • A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket being prepared for the company's first Commercial Resupply Services mission to send a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, September 30, 2012. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

The Dragon is carrying 455 kilograms of supplies to the orbiting lab and is expected to carry almost double that amount of cargo back to Earth. The return cargo will include biological samples that have been collected and stored in the space station's freezers until they can be analyzed on the ground.

ISS Director Sam Scimemi called the Dragon's ability to return cargo to Earth "critical" to utilizing the space station.  Russia's Soyuz capsule is the only other spacecraft that returns anything to Earth from the station, and has little room for cargo because it is used for astronaut transport.

Scimemi said the the combination of government and private-sector capabilities gives the United States a strength that other nations do not have, and allows the U.S. to fulfill its leadership responsibilities for the space station program.

"It also provides the basis for SpaceX to do other things other than just going to the Space Station eventually, so we're looking forward to that as well," he said. "It's not just the government itself providing leadership, it is industry itself providing leadership as well, which is more than China or India or other countries are doing today."

The current mission is the first of 12 SpaceX supply flights to the orbiting lab under the NASA contract. The next one is scheduled for January of next year.  

The Dragon capsule is expected to return to Earth October 28.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Barrie from: Calgary, Alberta
October 08, 2012 1:48 PM
And another science fiction story becomes fact! Private space commerce has long been utilised in SF literature; it took a long time for private funding to reach critical mass.
Although there are many scientific questions that can be explored in zero-gee, being able to return samples of space rocks and other items to the planet's surface is important to expand our knowledge of this frontier.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs