25 May 2012

As of 9:56 a.m. EDT (13:56 GMT), the robotic arm of the International Space Station (ISS) successfully captured the SpaceX Dragon capsule.  NASA will be giving a news briefing later this afternoon on the events.  Read on for the full run down as well as a brief history and diagram of ISS as well.  Then at 12:02 p.m. EDT, the capsule successfully docked to the station itself.

Crews then worked with the 58 foot robotic arm to dock Dragon directly to the space station on the Harmony module.  They successfully docked at 12:02 p.m. EDT.  The hatch will be opened sometime on Saturday.  The attempt was initially delayed as engineers had to work out issues with bad sensor readings due to light reflected from ISS's Kibo laboratory.  SpaceX narrowed the field of view from the laser sensor so light wasn't detected from other module.

SpaceX launched Dragon from the Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday and headed towards the 240-mile (386 kilometer) space station.  This linking is now heralded as the first privately built vehicle to attach to ISS and is a $100 billion collaboration between five international space agencies.  Below is a video showing the full sequence of events leading to the docking.

Prior to this event only four nations have docked a spacecraft to ISS, those being Europe, Russia, the United States and Japan.

The International Space Station first began construction in 1998.  Its expected to be in service at least through 2016.  Astronauts on board take a trip around the world every 92 minutes or so.  The station itself is about 356 feet in length.  115 flights were required to finish construction.

Check out the image below for a diagram of the components (click to zoom).  This was as of 2010.  Construction was essentially completed in 2011.  Node 2 is the Harmony node.  There is also a nice flash timeline diagram of the build process here.

Image Sources:  NASA, Timgeorgedesign.wordpress.com

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