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First Privately-Built Capsule Docks With Space Station

First Privately Funded Spacecraft Docks With ISS
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WATCH: The first privately funded spacecraft docks with the ISS.

The first privately built spacecraft to ever be launched into space has docked with the International Space Station (ISS).

The unmanned SpaceX "Dragon" craft, carrying 544 kilograms of supplies for the space station crew, docked following a successful practice fly-by of the space station on May 24.

NASA said that a formal berthing then brought the capsule closer so that it was able to dock at the station's Harmony module on May 25.

Space-station astronauts are expected to open the hatch into "Dragon" on May 26, when they will begin unloading the cargo.

The docking maneuver was described beforehand as the most difficult part of the mission.

It came after a brief delay when controllers forced "Dragon" to back away because of a disorienting light reflection.

The capsule, built by the California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), was launched from Florida on May 22 aboard a rocket built by the same company.

U.S. space agency NASA says "Dragon" will not likely be accredited to carry astronauts until 2017.

Previously, only government spacecraft from Japan, Russia, the United States, and the European Union have made it successfully to the ISS.

Since the retirement of the U.S. space-shuttle fleet last year, the United States has relied primarily on Russia to fly supplies and crew members to the ISS.

However, NASA has contracts with several private companies to carry out cargo missions and, eventually, manned missions as well.

SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract to supply cargo to the space station over the next few years and to return cargo to Earth as well. The contract envisions 12 missions.

A competitor, Orbital Sciences, has a similar $1.9-billion contract and is expected to make its first launch later this year.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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