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Jason DavisMarch 4, 2013

Dragon overcomes issues, arrives at Station

After a wild Friday in which SpaceX’s Dragon capsule drifted freely around the Earth while ground controllers scrambled to fix an issue with its propellant valves, the capsule has arrived safely at the International Space Station. Expedition 34 astronauts Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn grappled Dragon with Canadarm 2 at 5:31 a.m. EST Sunday and berthed it to the station’s Harmony module at 8:56 a.m.

“Let me just say, congratulations to the SpaceX and Dragon team in Houston and California,” said Ford, the current ISS commander, shortly after capture.

“As they say, it’s not where you start, but where you finish that counts, and you guys really finished this one on the mark. You’re aboard, and we’ve got lots of science on there to bring aboard,” he said.

Dragon grappled by Canadarm2

Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield

Dragon grappled by Canadarm2
SpaceX's Dragon capsule is grappled by the International Space Station on Sunday, March 2, 2013. The mission is SpaceX's second paid cargo run to the Station.

Sunday’s capture came only one day later than originally planned, after SpaceX fixed Dragon’s thruster issues by cycling the capsule's propellant valves to free suspected blockages. Elon Musk reported the transition from free drift to active control Friday afternoon shortly before Dragon raised its orbit to match the International Space Station.

Pods 1 and 4 now online and thrusters engaged. Dragon transitioned from free drift to active control. Yes!!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013

Orbit raising burn successful. Dragon back on track.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013

The station crew opened Dragon’s hatch at 1:14 p.m. EST Sunday. Over the next three weeks, they will unload over a half-ton of supplies and experiments and refill the capsule with cargo prior to its return to Earth. Splashdown is currently scheduled for March 25.

Dragon in free drift

SpaceX

Dragon in free drift
SpaceX's Dragon capsule drifts freely in orbit following its release from a Falcon 9 upper stage on Friday, March 1, 2013. The photograph is a screen capture from SpaceX's CRS-2 mission coverage.

Read more: International Space Station, commercial spaceflight

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Jason Davis

Journalist and Digital Editor for The Planetary Society
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