Space Station Grapples With a Dragon, Again

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At 5:31 am EST Sunday morning, International Space Station astronauts guided the Canadarm2 robotic arm to an earlier-than-scheduled grappling maneuver with the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The grapple was scheduled for 6:31 am ET. At 8:56 am EST, the robotic arm guided the capsule for installation onto the Earth-facing port of the space station’s Harmony module.

The approach and berthing of the unmanned Dragon — carrying over 2,300 lb (1,000 kilograms) of supplies as part of a NASA resupply contract to the space station — came after the private spaceflight company successfully overcame problems with three of four thruster pods that cast the mission into doubt shortly after launch on Friday.

When a spacecraft berths with the International Space Station, it does so under the guidance of the station’s robotic arm. This differs from a docking maneuver that is carried out solely under the spacecraft’s guidance. The planned manned Dragon missions will dock (not berth) with the orbiting outpost.

“SpaceX is proud to execute this important work for NASA, and we’re thrilled to bring this capability back to the United States,” Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX, said shortly after Dragon berthing. “Today’s launch continues SpaceX’s long-term partnership with NASA to provide reliable, safe transport of cargo to and from the station, enabling beneficial research and advancements in technology and research.”

This is the second of 12 SpaceX resupply missions to the space station under a $1.6 billion NASA contract.

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Image credit: NASA TV