After launching this Tuesday at 3:44 Eastern Daylight Time, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is now in its third day of low-Earth orbit. The company reports that everything has been going smoothly so far, with “a series of milestones” having been set as the vehicle approaches the International Space Station (ISS).

Along with successfully deploying its solar arrays soon after reaching orbit, the Dragon has also demonstrated its Absolute Global Positioning System, both a pulsed and a full abort, and free drift flight – this involves its simply floating freely in orbit, so it can be grappled by the space station’s robotic arm when the time comes. Its proximity operations sensors and COTS UHF Communication Unit (CUCU) are also operational, and appear to be in good working order.

A view of the International Space Station, taken by the Dragon spacecraft’s thermal imager (Image: SpaceX)

The spacecraft fired its thrusters this morning, bringing it to a distance of 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) below the ISS. It subsequently demonstrated its Relative GPS, and used the CUCU to establish a communications link with the station.

It is now heading into its final approach location, with its actual docking at the space station scheduled for approximately 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time, tomorrow. The Dragon can be seen – just barely – in the video below, shot by astronauts aboard the ISS.

Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Ben Coxworth

An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.

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  • History in the making.

    sk8dad 24th May, 2012 @ 12:49 p.m. (California Time)
  • "private companies will provide lower-cost and more efficient cargo" (news report) Does that mean the government was spending too much money? Can we get a refund after finding a better deal? Where were all these "private companies" over the years - were they just waiting for the free tax money to run out?

    donwine 25th May, 2012 @ 9:18 a.m. (California Time)
  • No need to blame anyone, donwine. Earlier space efforts were a lot of R&D mixed in with some applications with no real payout. Governments are good at this, but no company was going to get involved before it looked like it was going to pay. SpaceX and others are benefitting from all that previous work done by NASA--as they freely admit. I think it's a good progression.

    Arf 25th May, 2012 @ 9:55 a.m. (California Time)
  • I'll bet that space station video is cool. Could somebody describe it for the benefit of those of us with portable Apple devices?

    solutions4circuits 25th May, 2012 @ 5:25 p.m. (California Time)
  • @solutions4circuits: You didn't miss much - just a blob (which looks more like a dead fly stuck to the lens) in the center while clouds move slowly from top right of frame to bottom left. Wait for it to move a bit closer and maybe there will be better videos to be had!

    (feel sorry for you poor portable Apple device owners!)

    agulesin 28th May, 2012 @ 3:52 a.m. (California Time)

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