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Dragon Arrives at Station
Following execution of what looked to be a picture-perfect launch by Falcon 9, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully berthed (attached) to the International Space Station at 10:02 AM ET. Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency used the space station's robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft at 7:14AM ET, after which the crew guided the vehicle to the station’s Harmony module where Dragon was connected to the station at 10:02 AM ET.
The SpaceX CRS 3 mission began on Friday, April 18th when Falcon 9, carrying the Dragon spacecraft, lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at 3:25 PM Eastern Time. Approximately 10 minutes after liftoff, Falcon 9 successfully delivered Dragon to its targeted orbit of 325x325km with Dragon’s solar array panels deploying 2 minutes later. Dragon established communications with the station and successfully completed a series of height adjustment maneuvers for its final approach and berthing with the station at 10:02 AM ET on April 20th.
Dragon delivered nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo during this mission—including critical space station equipment and over 150 science experiments. >The CRS 3 Dragon spacecraft included a number of upgrades, most notably a new avionics system that allowed four times the amount of powered cargo as in previous flights. Dragon carried six powered cargo payloads overall, four in its pressurized section and two in its unpressurized trunk, a first for SpaceX.
This marks the company’s third official mission under its $1.6B Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA and fourth visit to the space station for the Dragon spacecraft. Dragon, the only spacecraft in the world today capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, will stay on station for approximately one month. During this time astronauts will unload cargo and supplies for the ISS, including critical materials to support science investigations, then fill the spacecraft with payloads that includes research results, education experiments and space station hardware.
Splashdown and recovery in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California is currently targeted for May 18th at 12:02 PM ET.