SpaceX Dragon capsule nears International Space Station

25 May 2012

SpaceX Dragon capsule in orbit

Elon Musk’s Dragon spacecraft could be about to ignite a new era for commercial space travel today, as the unmanned craft is still on track to dock with the International Space Station shortly.

Earlier this morning NASA cleared the Dragon capsule to enter the 200-metre ‘keep out’ sphere around the International Space Station.

And recent NASA TV live coverage pinpointed that Dragon was almost nearing the 30-metre mark from the ISS. However, Dragon has since been forced to retreat from the orbiting capsule, and is now positioned around 70 metres below the ISS, which is currently orbiting about 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

The space agency, in its latest prediction, said that the targeted capture time of the spacecraft by the ISS crew, who will use a robotic arm to berth Dragon to the underbelly of the station, would be 9.10am EDT.

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

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

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

Astronauts on the ISS look at SpaceX Dragon lift-off on Tuesday
Astronauts on the ISS watch the SpaceX Dragon lift-off on Tuesday. Image credit: SpaceX

If everything goes to plan, Dragon will remain connected to the ISS for about three weeks.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic