June 26, 2022

On This Day In Space: May 22, 2012: SpaceX launches 1st private cargo mission to the space station

On This Day In Space: May 22, 2012: SpaceX launches 1st private cargo mission to the space station
On This Day In Space: May 22, 2012: SpaceX launches 1st private cargo mission to the space stationOn This Day In Space: May 22, 2012: SpaceX launches 1st private cargo mission to the space station

On May 22, 2012, SpaceX launched the first commercial flight to the International Space Station. The Dragon was the first American spacecraft to visit the space station since NASA ended the space shuttle program almost a year earlier. 

When the space shuttles were retired, NASA decided to contract private companies to start launching cargo to the space station. SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, launched over 1,000 lbs. of cargo to the space station with its Dragon cargo craft.    

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches over space shuttle mockup.

SpaceX’s first space station-bound Dragon spacecraft, flying atop a Falcon 9 rocket, launches behind a high fidelity mockup of the space shuttle, NASA’s previous means of delivering cargo to International Space Station. Liftoff occurred on May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Image credit: Robert Pearlman/collectSPACE.com)

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The vessel is actually designed to launch up to 13,000 lbs., but because this was a test flight, it wasn’t filled to its maximum capacity. The Dragon brought supplies like food, water and clothing for the space station crew and several student experiments. 

Also on board were cremated remains of more than 300 people. This included the ashes of the Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, and James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty on “Star Trek.” The mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket and arrived at the space station three days later. 

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