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Astronauts snare belated Christmas Dragon from space

Irene Klotz, Spaceflight Correspondent
Jan 12, 2015, 14:22 UTC

Sen—Astronauts aboard the International Space Station captured a SpaceX Dragon resupply ship from orbit on Monday, ending the capsule’s belated but successful two-day journey.

"We apologize for Santa and his Dragon sleigh to be a little more on the Eastern Orthodox schedule," astronaut Randy Bresnik, with Mission Control in Houston, radioed to the crew after the capsule was safely in the grip of the station’s robot arm.

Working from a computer station inside the station’s Cupola module, station commander Butch Wilmore latched on to the capsule at 5:54 a.m. EST (1054 GMT) as the ships flew 262 miles over the Mediterranean Sea.

Three hours later, it was bolted onto a docking port on the station’s Harmony module.

Dragon’s arrival had been planned for mid-December, but launch was delayed due to a technical issue with its Falcon 9 launcher. SpaceX then had to wait until sun angles on the station were suitable for Dragon to be aboard. Another  technical issue with the rocket delayed the flight four more days last week.

“It’s nice to have it onboard,” Wilmore said. “We’ll be digging in soon.”

The capsule is loaded with more than 2.5 tons of food, clothing, equipment and science experiments, including an atmospheric monitoring instrument called the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System, or CATS, that will be mounted outside of the station.

The cargo includes some replacement equipment lost in the 28 October Antares launch accident that claimed an Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo ship.

The replacement gear includes a voltage regulator, torque wrenches, wire ties, tethers and other tools for an upcoming series of U.S. spacewalks to prepare docking ports for two new commercial spaceships expected to begin transporting astronauts to and from the station in 2017.