SpaceX Dragon capsule flies close to space station

24 May 2012

Dragon capsule depicted in space. Image courtesy of SpaceX

SpaceX is still on target to berth with the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow. And today it passed its demonstration testing, passing directly below the orbiting complex at a distance of 2.5km, NASA has confirmed.

The unmanned Dragon capsule is now on its trajectory to rendez-vous with the ISS tomorrow.

The privately built spacecraft is carrying around 1,200 pounds of supplies, mainly food and clothes, for the crew of the ISS.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Tuesday.

New era for commercial spaceflight

NASA has hired Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, the company which was set up by PayPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, do deliver cargo and, down the line, astronauts to the ISS.

The alliance with Musk’s SpaceX has signalled the start of its NASA approach of outsourcing space missions to privately funded companies.

If tomorrow’s rendez-vous is successful, Dragon will remain connected to the station for about three weeks.

NASA said the ISS crew had also tested Dragon‘s UHF system today and had successfully commanded its strobe light.

“This is an important milestone verifying the crew can send commands to the capsule in advance of tomorrow’s berthing attempt,” said the space agency.

SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule pictured lifting off for space on Tuesday 22 May

Falcon 9 blasts off from Cape Canaveral on 22 May. Image by SpaceX

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic