The history of space travel has got a new glittering episode to its store! The first commercial cargo flight has launched successfully to the International Space Station (ISS). The reusable unmanned freighter, Dragon, was lifted into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
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The flight that carried 905 kg of cargo is the first of the twelve contracted flights that Dragon is scheduled to make to the station. The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), which builds and operates the Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster, has contracted with NASA for such cargo transportation to the ISS. It is the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the ISS as part of the contract.
It was Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), who is on board the ISS, captured Dragon using one of the station's robotic arms and guided it to a docking port to unload cargo. The mission, officially known as CRS-1, is not the first visit made by Dragon to the ISS. Last May, a Dragon freighter made its first docking with the station, but that was part of a test to determine if the Dragon could be used as a cargo carrier.
Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft that stands 4.4 m (14.4 ft) tall and is 3.66 m (12 ft) in diameter. Weighing 6,000 (13,228 lbs) at launch, it consists of a pressurized capsule and an unpressurized trunk that houses the craft’s solar power array. Now Dragon returns by parachute for a water recovery before refurbishment and reuse. But SpaceX have plans to upgrade it in the near future to make powered landings and eventually carry a crew.