The unmanned Dragon space cargo capsule owned by a private firm docked with the International Space Station on Sunday carrying about 550 kilograms (1,210 pounds) of experiments and supplies for the astronauts there, after overcoming a problem with its thrusters that forced ground controllers to delay its arrival by a day.
NASA said that the capsule, owned by the U.S. firm SpaceX, was captured by the ISS’s robotic arm at 1031 GMT and later docked with the station’s Harmony module at 1356 GMT.
The Dragon capsule is slated to spend 22 days coupled with the ISS on its second supply mission out of 12 scheduled in SpaceX’s contract with NASA.
Dragon lifted off on Friday from Cape Canaveral and was scheduled to get to the ISS on Saturday, but NASA found itself forced to postpone the docking maneuver due to a problem with the capsule’s thrusters, which allow engineers on Earth to guide it once it is in orbit.
Of the capsule’s four thrusters, just one was found to be functioning shortly after liftoff.
However, quite soon thereafter authorities reported that two of the four thrusters were working, raising the possibilities that Dragon could complete its mission, and NASA eventually said on Saturday that the docking maneuver would take place on Sunday.
This is the third Dragon mission after a test flight in May 2012 and the first supply mission to the ISS last October.
The ISS is orbiting some 385 kilometers (240 miles) above the Earth and traveling at some 27,000 kilometers (16,800 miles) per hour. The $100 billion space platform’s operation is being participated in by 15 countries.
The ISS schedule establishes that Dragon will return to Earth on March 25, descending with parachutes after reentry off the coast of Baja California.
Currently on board the ISS are six crewmembers: Russians Oleg Novitskiy, Evgeny Tarelkin and Roman Romanenko, Americans Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn and Canadian Chris Hadfield.
The development of Dragon is a landmark for the U.S. space industry given that, after the retirement of the NASA space shuttle fleet in 2011 the transport of cargo and crewmen to the ISS had been exclusively performed by Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.