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SpaceX Rocket Launches Supplies to International Space Station

April 20, 2014

A SpaceX supply ship delivered two tons of food, gear, experiments and care packages to the six men aboard the International Space Station on Sunday.

Dragon, the name of the SpaceX company’s space capsule, chased the space station for two days following its Friday launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. before astronauts captured it with a robotic arm.

Neither NASA nor SpaceX packed any Easter goodies, but the families of the six astronauts sent private care packages.

“Gentlemen, the Easter Dragon is knocking at the door,” NASA’s Mission Control said as the capsule was locked into place.

(MORE: Space Shuttle Columbia: The Greatest Rescue Ever Imagined)

Friday's launch was the second launch attempt this week for SpaceX after a month's delay.

On Monday, NASA's commercial supplier was foiled by a leaky rocket valve. The valve was replaced, and the company aimed for a Friday liftoff despite a dismal forecast. Storms cleared out of Cape Canaveral just in time.

SpaceX's billionaire chief executive officer, Elon Musk, was delighted with the successful launch for NASA, the customer. "This was a happy day," he told reporters from company headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.

Last Friday, a critical backup computer failed outside the space station, and NASA considered postponing the SpaceX flight. The primary computer is working fine, but numerous systems would be seriously compromised if it broke, too. A double failure also would hinder visits by the Dragon and other vessels.

"It's imperative that we maintain" backups for these external command-routing computer boxes, also called multiplexer-demultiplexers, or MDMs, said flight director Brian Smith said Friday. "Right now, we don't have that."

NASA decided late this week to use the gasket-like material already on board the space station for the repair, instead of waiting for the Dragon and the new, precision-cut material that NASA rushed on board for the computer swap. Astronauts trimmed their own thermal material Friday to fit the bottom of the replacement computer, and inserted a fresh circuit card.

The space station's crew watched the launch via a live TV hookup; the outpost was soaring 260 miles above Turkey at the time of ignition. Video beamed down from Dragon showed the solar wings unfurling.

The shipment is close to five weeks late. Initially set for mid-March, the launch was delayed by extra prepping, then damage to an Air Force radar and, finally on Monday, the rocket leak.

Earlier, as the countdown entered its final few hours, NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini said an investigation continues into the reason for last summer's spacesuit failure. The helmet worn by an Italian astronaut filled with water from the suit's cooling system, and he nearly drowned during a spacewalk.

Routine U.S. spacewalks are on hold until engineers are certain what caused the water leak. The upcoming spacewalk by the two Americans on board is considered an exception because of its urgent nature; it will include no unnecessary tasks, just the 2½-hour computer swap.

NASA is paying SpaceX — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — and Virginia's Orbital Sciences Corp. to keep the orbiting lab well stocked. It was SpaceX's fourth trip to the space station. Russia, Japan and Europe also make periodic deliveries.

Unlike the other cargo carriers, the Dragon can bring items back for analysis.

Among the science samples going up on the Dragon and slated to return with it in a month: 200 fruit flies and their expected progeny, and germs collected from stadiums and sports arenas, as well as such notables as America's Liberty Bell and Sue, the T. rex fossil skeleton at Chicago's Field Museum.

Scientists will study the hearts of the returning flies — as many as 3,000 are expected for the trip home. The germ samples, once back on Earth, will be compared with duplicate cultures on the ground.

Staying up there — for as long as the space station lives — will be new legs for NASA's humanoid, Robonaut. The indoor robot has been in orbit for three years, but only from the waist up.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

MORE: Vintage NASA Photos From Space

Liftoff of Space Shuttle Endeavour

Liftoff of Space Shuttle Endeavour

NASA

Billows of smoke and steam infused with the fiery light from space shuttle Endeavour's launch on the STS-127 mission fill NASA Kennedy Space Center's Launch Pad 39A. Endeavour lifted off on the mission's sixth launch attempt, on July 15, 2009 at 6:03 p.m. EDT.

  • Liftoff of Space Shuttle Endeavour
  • Variable Density Tunnel
  • Free-Flight Tunnel
  • NACA Ames 16 foot High Speed Wind Tunnel
  • Ramjet I-40 Engine in Jet Static Lab
  • 19-ft. Pressure Wind Tunnel
  • Double Trouble: May 5, 1951
  • D-558-2 Mounted to P2B-1S Launch Aircraft
  • Bomarc Ram Jet Engine in PSL Tank
  • Free-Falling Body Nose Dives in Desert
  • Pilot Joe Walker and the X-1A
  • XF-92A in Flight
  • The Road to Apollo
  • D-558-2 Dropped from B-29 Mothership
  • X-3 on Lakebed
  • Bumper V-2 Launch
  • Flying Saucer? Aliens?
  • D-558-2 Mounted to P2B-1S Launch Aircraft
  • Vertol VZ-2 (Model 76)
  • Pilot Neil Armstrong in the X-15 #1 Cockpit
  • Pilot Neil Armstrong and X-15
  • Mercury Suit Components
  • John Glenn, Mercury, February 1962
  • Friendship 7
  • Astronaut John Glenn Honored
  • JFK Tour of Kennedy Space Center
  • President Kennedy at Cape Canaveral
  • Explorer XVII Satellite
  • Astronaut Survival Training
  • Scout Project
  • Geological Training
  • Aerial View of Missile Row
  • Lunar Landing Research Vehicle in Flight
  • XB-70A Landing with Drag Chutes Deployed
  • The World's First View of Earth
  • Lunar Landing Training Vehicle
  • Reduced Gravity Walking Simulator
  • Mobile Quarantine Facility with Apollo 11 Crew
  • Ed White, First American Spacewalker
  • Armstrong and Scott with Hatches Open
  • Mission Control Room During Apollo 4 Launch
  • View of Earth From Apollo 8
  • Earthrise: Apollo 8
  • HL-10 on Lakebed with B-52 Flyby
  • The Apollo 9 Astronauts
  • Ling-Temco-Vought XC-142A
  • Schweickart On 'The Porch'
  • Apollo 10 Liftoff with Belgium King and Queen
  • Buzz Aldrin Prepares for Weightlessness
  • Apollo 11 Pre-Launch Activities
  • Apollo 12 Lunar EVA Training
  • Beginning the Mission
  • Apollo 11 Launch
  • Apollo 11 Launch Spectators
  • Apollo 11 Launch Spectators on the Beach
  • Lyndon Johnson Watches the Apollo 11 Liftoff
  • Apollo 11 Liftoff
  • Apollo 12 Mission Image
  • Mission Accomplished
  • Apollo 11 Lunar Module Ascent
  • Apollo 11 Celebration at Mission Control
  • Apollo 12: Conrad Unfurls Flag
  • Aldrin Looks Back at Tranquility Base
  • Apollo 11 Mission Image
  • Earth's Crest Over the Lunar Horizon
  • Apollo 11: East Crater Panorama
  • Apollo 11 Mission Image
  • Apollo 13 Mission Control Celebrates
  • Neil Armstrong on the Moon
  • Earth Horizon from Mare Smythii
  • Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East
  • Apollo 11 Bootprint
  • Apollo 11: Catching Some Sun
  • President Nixon Welcomes Apollo 11 Astronauts
  • Astronauts Swarmed In Mexico City Parade
  • Apollo 11 Astronauts Visiting the Pope
  • Apollo 11 Lunar Mission Rollout
  • Neil Armstrong at the Lunar Landing Research Facility
  • Mariner 9 Views of Shield Volcano
  • Apollo 16: Duke on Crater's Edge
  • Apollo 14: Mitchell Studies Map
  • Schmitt Next to Big Boulder
  • Apollo 16: Mission Control
  • Viking I Spacecraft in Cleanroom
  • Skylab 4 'Christmas Tree'
  • Crescent Earth Rises Above Lunar Horizon
  • Earth, Photographed in Far-Ultraviolet Light
  • Earth and Moon Viewed by Mariner 10
  • Long-Lost Spacesuit Uncovered
  • Mars Mission: Viking I on Titan III Centaur Rocket Launch
  • Viking 2 Image of Mars Utopian Plain
  • Surface Changes in Chryse Planitia
  • Color Mosaic of Olympus Mons on Mars
  • Icy Mars
  • First Image of Saturn and Titan
  • Apollo 12 View of Solar Eclipse
  • XV-15 Tilt Rotor Aircraft
  • Sullivan and Ride Show Sleep Restraints
  • Backpacking
  • Neptune from First Voyager 2 Flyby
  • SR-71 Takeoff with Afterburner
  • Astronaut Mae Jemison Working in Spacelab-J
  • Practice Makes Perfect
  • Helios Prototype Flying Wing
  • Delta Liftoff
  • Lighting Up the Night

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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