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May 31, 2012

First commercial spacecraft released for space station

     Washington: US company SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule, the first commercial spacecraft to visit the International Space Station, was released from the orbital outpost Thursday morning. Using the station's robotic arm, astronauts aboard the station detached the capsule from its berthing port at 4:07 a.m. EDT (0807 GMT) and released it at 5:49 EDT (0949 GMT) as the spacecraft sailed 250 miles above Earth. Dragon is expected to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean nearly 500 nautical miles (926 km) southwest of Los Angeles at 11:44 a.m. EDT (1544 GMT). It is carrying about 1,300 pounds of cargo, including crew items, completed science experiments and used station hardware. Dragon docked at the space station Friday, three days after blasting off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida . The mission is a trial run for SpaceX's plan to fly 12 cargo-delivery missions to the orbiting laboratory over the next few years. The company has a 1.6-billion-U.S. dollar contract with NASA. All previous flights to the space station have been by government-operated craft.
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