SpaceX's Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station early Wednesday to deliver nearly half a ton of experiments and supplies.
At 3:56 a.m. California time, flight engineer Aki Hoshide on board the space station maneuvered a robotic arm to capture the capsule about 32 feet away. He then guided it to the station's Harmony module.
About two hours later, space station commander Sunita Williams used the robotic arm to install SpaceX's cargo ship to a docking port on the ISS.
"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon," Williams said. "We're happy she's on board with us."
Williams thanked SpaceX and NASA for the delivery, especially the chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream stashed in a freezer.
The link-up occurred 250 miles above the Pacific, just west of Baja California, 2 1/2 days after the Dragon's launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
"Nice flying," radioed NASA's mission control.
It was Dragon's first regular supply mission to the orbiting lab under a $1.6 billion NASA contract that calls for 12 such trips by the Hawthorne-based rocket developer officially named Space Exploration Technologies Corp.
"This is a big moment in the course of this mission and for commercial spaceflight," SpaceX CEO and chief technical officer Elon Musk said in a statement. "We are pleased that Dragon is now ready to deliver its cargo to the International Space Station."
In May, SpaceX's capsule berthed with the space station in a historic test run.
SpaceX is part of NASA's ambitious plan to allow private business to take on the responsibilities of sending supplies and eventually people to the space station.
The effort is meant to save the government money and allow NASA to focus on deeper-space missions such as to Mars and asteroids.
The regular missions replace flights by the space shuttle fleet, the last of which was retired in 2011.
The end of the space shuttle program meant the United States was dependent on other nations to send supplies and astronauts to the space station.
SpaceX hopes to send its first manned Dragon mission in as soon as three years.
Just after 3 a.m. today , the station's crew will open the capsule's hatch. Then the astronauts will upload 882 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies, vehicle hardware, experiments and a freezer for storing scientific samples.
On Oct. 28, Dragon will be released from the space station carrying 1,673 pounds of scientific samples and other cargo for return to Earth.
Splashdown is expected about six hours later the same day in the Pacific Ocean, 250 miles off the Southern California coast.
SpaceX launched Dragon on Sunday on its Falcon 9 rocket. The mission suffered a problem about a minute into flight when one of the rocket's nine engines shut off automatically because of a loss of pressure.
While the rocket was still able to send Dragon on its intended route to the space station, a secondary payload, an Orbcomm satellite, was deployed to a lower altitude orbit than planned "for the protection of the space station mission," SpaceX said Wednesday.
Communications company Orbcomm said it would try to salvage its satellite's mission, although it was unclear how likely that was.
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