You are here

Mission Summary: Dragon Becomes First Private Spacecraft to Visit the Space Station

On May 31 2012, SpaceX successfully completed the historic mission that made Dragon the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station. Previously only four governments — the United States, Russia, Japan and the European Space Agency — had achieved this challenging technical feat.

Below is a brief summary in pictures of the historic mission from liftoff to splashdown:


Liftoff of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle carrying Dragon C2 spacecraft, from the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle carrying Dragon C2 spacecraft, from the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle carrying Dragon C2 spacecraft, from the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

Excited space fans watch the early morning liftoff of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle from a viewing area outside the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, May 22, 2012. At liftoff the Falcon 9’s US-made engines generate nearly 1 million pounds of thrust. Photo: Sandon Simmons/SpaceX

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket as it climbs towards space. At left, view looking down the vehicle towards the engines; at right, view from long range tracking camera on the ground. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX / NASA

After first stage shutdown, the second stage engine ignites approximately 90 kilometers or 56 miles above the Earth.  At left, view looking down the vehicle towards the engines; at right, view from long range tracking camera on the ground. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

The second stage engine of the Falcon 9 glows red-hot as it powers the Dragon spacecraft towards orbit.  May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

View from inside the first stage of the Falcon 9 looking forward at the Merlin Vacuum engine in the second stage
at the moment of stage separation. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

View from SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft looking outward at one of two solar array panels in the process of deploying.  May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

A view from SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft looking outward at one of two solar array panels shining in the sunlight in its fully deployed condition, just 12 minutes and 22 seconds after liftoff. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

A view from SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft looking outward at one of two solar array panels shining in the sunlight in its fully deployed condition, 12 minutes and 15 seconds after liftoff. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

With the curve of Earth to the left, a view from SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft looking outward at one of two solar array panels in its fully deployed condition, 13 minutes and 55 seconds after liftoff. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

View from the Dragon spacecraft’s sensor bay as the door opens to the darkness of space. The door also supports the grapple fixture (Y-shaped structure upper center), which is where the robotic arm aboard the International Space Station grabs on to Dragon for berthing to the station. May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

View of the International Space Station taken by the Dragon spacecraft’s thermal camera, located in the vehicle’s sensor bay on the side of the spacecraft. May 25, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX Mission Control Center in Hawthorne (Los Angeles), California monitoring Dragon as astronauts aboard the International Space Station capture the Dragon spacecraft using the station's robotic arm. May 25, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station’s robotic arm moves Dragon into place for attachment to the station. May 25, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from inside the International Space Station as US astronaut Don Pettit opens the Dragon spacecraft’s hatch and prepares to enter, making Dragon the first commercial space vehicle to visit the international orbiting laboratory. May 26, 2012. Photo: NASA

View from inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft looking, at top, into the international orbiting laboratory. May 26, 2012. Photo: NASA

US astronauts Don Pettit and Joe Acaba collect air samples from inside Dragon spacecraft. As with all visiting cargo vehicles, the astronauts wear breathing and eye protection to guard against any stray material that may be present at first. May 26, 2012. Photo: NASA

After six days at the International Space Station, the Dragon spacecraft departs for its return to Earth, carrying a load of cargo for NASA. SpaceX designed the Dragon spacecraft to one day transport crewmembers to and from space, and it carries a high tech, high performance heat shield to protect it during the return through the atmosphere. All other cargo resupply vehicles
burn up during reentry. May 31, 2012. Photo: NASA

View of the Dragon spacecraft parachutes from the NASA P3 aircraft circling the recovery zone in the Pacific ocean, about 450 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. May 31, 2012. Photo: NASA

View of the Dragon spacecraft floating in the Pacific ocean from the NASA P3 aircraft circling the recovery zone, about 450 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. May 31, 2012. Photo: NASA

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft floats in the Pacific ocean at the completion of its successful nine-day mission where it became the first privately developed vehicle to visit the International Space Station, as well as the first cargo resupply vehicle ever to return to Earth from the orbiting laboratory. Viewed from the SpaceX recovery vessel as it approaches the spacecraft in the recovery zone, about 450 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. May 31, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on the barge after being retrieved from the Pacific Ocean after splashdown, May 31, 2012. Photo: SpaceX