Issue Date: November 5, 2012
Commercial Craft Resupplies Space Station
For the first time, a commercial spacecraft, contracted by NASA, has taxied cargo to and from the International Space Station. The Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth late last month after carrying 882 lb of cargo to the station and bringing back a 1,673-lb load. Included in the station delivery was scientific research material as well as other supplies. Dragon returned some scientific experiments to Earth that will now be analyzed, among them a freezer full of samples collected in microgravity to assess the long-term impacts of spaceflight on the human body. This mission marks the first time since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet that the agency has been able to return large amounts of research and samples to Earth for analysis. SpaceX is scheduled to make 11 more trips to the space station through 2016. A second company, Orbital Sciences, has also been contracted by NASA to build a new cargo spacecraft; the test for that craft is planned for early next year.
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