Space station crew opens door to commercial spaceship

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station opened the door on the lab’s first commercial resupply craft Saturday, accessing more than 1,000 pounds of food, clothing and experiments stowed inside.

Astronauts Don Pettit, Andre Kuipers and Joe Acaba speak to reporters from inside the Dragon spacecraft. Credit: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now But one of the most vital functions of the privately-owned cargo ship – its ability to safely return space station equipment to Earth – is yet to be demonstrated.

The space station’s Expedition 31 crew opened Dragon’s hatch Saturday at 5:53 a.m. EDT (0953 GMT), and the astronauts plan to spend 25 hours removing the craft’s supply cache and installing equipment tagged for shipment back to Earth.

“I spent quite a bit of time poking around in here this morning just looking at the engineering and the layout, and I’m very pleased,” said Don Pettit, a NASA flight engineer living aboard the space station. “It looks like it carries about as much cargo as I could put in my pickup truck.”

Pettit was at the controls of the station’s robotic arm Friday when it grappled Dragon after a cautious laser-guided rendezvous with the outpost.

Most of the crew’s cargo transfer duties will not begin until Monday, according to Holly Ridings, NASA’s lead space station flight director for the Dragon mission.

“We are going to give our crew some time off,” Ridings said. “They’ve been working very hard over the last couple of days, so we’re going to give them some time off over the weekend. Then Monday and Tuesday are very big cargo days on the space station.”

Pettit, Andre Kuipers, and Joe Acaba will rotate time removing and adding cargo in the Dragon spacecraft.

None of Dragon’s payloads are deemed essential for the space station by NASA officials. The ongoing mission is a test flight to prove the Dragon spacecraft is ready for regular cargo deliveries to the complex, which could begin as soon as September.

Engineers packed the commercial spaceship with 1,146 pounds of equipment and supplies before Dragon’s launch, taking advantage of the test mission to supplement cargo dispatched to the space station on other flights.

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(1) Space station crew opens door to commercial spaceship
URL: http://www.spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/003/120526hatch/



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