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SpaceX Craft Docks With Space Station; Commercial Era Begins

The historic first docking of a commercial spacecraft at the International Space Station orbiting above Earth happened without a hitch today, as SpaceX's Dragon capsule arrived with supplies for the crew orbiting high above Earth.

Just before 10 a.m. ET, astronauts aboard the space station successfully grabbed the capsule with a robotic arm. A little after noon ET, the pulled the Dragon into its docking space.

NASA was webcasting, and we have embedded its feed in this post (our apologies if you're on a device that doesn't support the player).

Earlier this week on All Things Considered, NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reported about the historic mission. If everything goes as planned, SpaceX will have done something that only government space agencies have done before — and will kick off what's expected to be a new era of commercial space flight.

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET. Dragon Has Docked:

Dragon has finished docking with the International Space Station. That makes SpaceX the first private company to dock a cargo spacecraft to the space station.

That happened at exactly 12:02 p.m. ET, according to NASA.

Update at 10:40 a.m. ET. "Big Moment":

Capturing Dragon "was a big moment for SpaceX and a big moment for NASA too," NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce said on Morning Edition a short time ago. "No private spaceship has ... ever reached a station before. It's a first for SpaceX and a first for the world."

And in just a few years, Nell added, Dragon could be ready to take people into space, not just supplies.

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. More Details.

According to NASA, "capture" occurred as the space station was "251 miles over northwest Australia."

Who's aboard the space station now? NASA has bios of the six-man crew posted here. Commander Oleg Kononenko was born in what is now Turkmenistan. The Americans on board are NASA astronauts Donald Pettit and Joseph Acaba. Other flight engineers are Andre Kuipers (from The Netherlands), Gennady Padalka (born in Russia) and Sergei Revin (also Russian).

Update at 9:56 a.m. ET: Dragon's Been Grabbed:

The crew of the space station just grabbed the spacecraft with a robotic arm. Next up: Docking, which will take another couple hours. "Capture is confirmed," NASA announced.

Update at 9:45 a.m. ET. Capture At 10:02 a.m. ET?

NASA now estimates the first opportunity to use the robotic arm to grab Dragon will come at 10:02 a.m. ET.

Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. OK Given To Draw Near: Controllers have given the go-ahead for the spacecraft to approach to within about 30 feet of the space station. That's the point where astronauts on the space station should be able to reach out and grab it with a robotic arm.

Update at 9:20 a.m. ET. Ninety Feet Away: Dragon is now about 90 feet from the station. NASA is determining whether it can now close to about 30 feet — the point where grappling can take place.

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Not Quite Yet: Dragon has drawn closer, but is still going through some preliminary maneuvers.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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