Space Station and Commercial Spacecraft United

The Dragon spacecraft of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. made a successful rendezvous with the International Space Station on May 25, opening a new era of commercial space transportation.

The era of U.S. commercial space transportation officially began at 9:56 a.m. EDT May 25, when an astronaut aboard the International Space Station successfully grappled Space Exploration Technologies Corp.'s Dragon spacecraft. The unmanned Dragon had blasted off three days earlier from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, earning congratulations from NASA and the White House.

The Hawthorne, Calif. company, known as SpaceX, was founded a decade ago by CEO Elon Musk to provide reliable, low-cost commercial space transport. This mission proved the Dragon, which is carrying 1,200 pounds of supplies, could maneuver successfully and be communicated with by the station's crew. NASA and the Johnson Space Center posted a steady stream of Twitter updates May 25 as the Dragon was brought to a distance of 30 meters, then 10 meters, and finally the grappling was confirmed.

"There's still a thousand things that have to go right, but we are looking forward to this exciting mission," Alan Lindemoyer, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, had said after the launch.

Musk later said this was the third consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch and the fifth consecutive launch success for SpaceX.

The White House had posted a congratulatory message from John P. Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology:

"Congratulations to the teams at SpaceX and NASA for this morning's successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight. Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President's plan for maintaining America's leadership in space. This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA's resources to do what NASA does best -- tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit. I could not be more proud of our NASA and SpaceX scientists and engineers, and I look forward to following this and many more missions like it."

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