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Saturday 17 March 2018

SpaceX completes space station delivery after navigation problem caused delay

The Dragon spacecraft in orbit (SpaceX)
The Dragon spacecraft in orbit (SpaceX)

SpaceX has completed its delivery to the International Space Station after fixing a navigation problem that held up the shipment by a day.

Everything went smoothly the second time around as the station astronauts captured the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship as the two craft sailed over Australia.

On Wednesday, a GPS system error prevented the capsule from coming too close.

The Dragon - loaded with 5,500lbs of supplies - lifted off on Sunday from Nasa's historic moon pad at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Now leased by SpaceX, the pad had been idle since the close of the shuttle programme almost six years ago.

The station's six crew members will accept another shipment on Friday, this one from the Russians.

Given the Dragon's delayed arrival - lift-off also occurred a day late - the astronauts were under orders to open the capsule as soon as possible to retrieve sensitive science experiments.

"Sorry about the delays," Mission Control said. "Now the real work starts."

"Congratulations Dragon on a successful journey from Earth and now welcome on board," said French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who used the station's big robot arm to grab the capsule.

At the top of the crew's unloading list: 20 mice that are part of a wound-healing experiment. Another 20 mice are taking part in the study on the ground, as control subjects.

Other newly arrived research: highly infectious MRSA bacteria, triple-contained so it does not get loose; stem cells; and instruments for studying lightning and the Earth's ozone layer.

The Dragon will remain at the space station for a month before it is cut loose to bring back science samples and other items.

It is the only supply ship capable of returning intact to Earth, as all the others burn up during re-entry.

SpaceX is one of two private companies flying up supplies for Nasa.

Besides the French astronaut, the space station is home to two Americans and three Russians.


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