* One-day delay due to thruster problem
* Carries food, equipment, science experiments
* Return to Earth slated for March 25
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 3 Astronauts aboard
the International Space Station used a robotic arm to pluck a
SpaceX cargo capsule from orbit on Sunday and prepared to haul
The Dragon capsule, loaded with more than 2,300 pounds
(1,043 kg) of science equipment, spare parts, food and supplies,
blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on
Friday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
SpaceX is the first private company to make supply runs to
the station for NASA and this is its second such mission.
The cargo ship was due to arrive at the station on Saturday,
but a problem with its thruster rocket pods developed soon after
reaching orbit. Engineers sent commands for Dragon to flip
valves and clear any blockage in a pressurization line in an
attempt to salvage the mission.
By Friday evening, Dragon had fired its thruster rockets to
raise its altitude and begin steering itself to rendezvous with
the $100 billion space station, which flies about 250 miles (400
km) above Earth.
The orbital ballet ended at 5:31 a.m. EST/1031 GMT, when
station commander Kevin Ford, working from a robotics station
inside the outpost, grappled the capsule with the station's
crane as the ships sailed over northern Ukraine.
"As they say, it's not where you start but where you finish
that counts. You guys really finished this one on the mark,"
Ford radioed to Dragon's flight control team in Hawthorne,
Calif., and NASA's Mission Control in Houston.
"What a fantastic day," Ford said.
The capsule will be anchored to a docking port on the
station's Harmony connecting node so astronauts can unload its
cargo and then refill it with equipment, trash and science
samples to take back to Earth on a trip scheduled for March 25.
Dragon's flight is the second of 12 missions for privately
owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, under a $1.6
billion NASA contract. Following a successful test flight to the
space station in May 2012, SpaceX conducted its first supply run
to the orbital outpost in October.
A second firm, Orbital Sciences Corp is due debut
its freighter this year.
NASA turned to private companies for delivering supplies to
the station following the retirement of its space shuttles in
2011. The agency hopes to buy rides commercially for its
astronauts as well beginning in 2017.