The SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday March 3.
Crew members attached the capsule to the station using a robotic arm and bolted it three hours later. It carried a number of supplies, including 640 seeds of flowering weeds, mouse stem cells, computer equipment, trash bags, air purifiers, batteries, spacewalking tools and food and clothing for the station's crew.
"We've got lots of science on there to bring aboard and get done," said station commander Kevin Ford. "So congratulations to all of you."
The arrival of the capsule came a day late, after a problem emerged with three of the vehicle's four thruster pods. The SpaceX team, however, was able to resolve the issue shortly after it occurred.
"Launching rockets is difficult," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, "and while the team faced some technical challenges after Dragon's separation from the launch vehicle, they called upon their thorough knowledge of their systems to successfully troubleshoot and fully recover all vehicle capabilities."
SpaceX's Dragon capsule will remain at the Space Station for three weeks before returning to Earth and landing in the Pacific Ocean. The mission is SpaceX's third to the Space Station and is part of a 12-mission supply contract with NASA. In May 2012, the Dragon became the first commercial space vehicle to successfully attach to the Station. The May mission was a test flight and was followed by SpaceX's first resupply mission in October 2012. Though SpaceX has only sent unmanned flights into space thus far, the company plans to launch a manned flight in the next three to four years.
Despite getting off to a rocky start, SpaceX's third mission to the Space Station was met with jubilation. "Happy Berth Day," SpaceX's website read. "There sure were some big smiles all around here," said NASA's Mission Control.
"As they say, it's not where you start, but where you finish that counts," Ford said, "and you guys really finished this one on the mark."
(Edited by Lois Heyman)