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NASA and SpaceX announce first contracted cargo flight to space station

  • SpaceX Dragon Docked at Dawn.jpg

    May 27, 2012: With rays of sunshine and the thin blue atmosphere of Earth serving as a backdrop, the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is berthed to the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station's Harmony node. (AP Photo/NASA)

  • Dragon Spacecraft

     (SpaceX)

  • Dragon docked at last.jpg

    May 25, 2012: NASA-TV shows the SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft, top, after Dragon was grappled by the Canadarm2 robotic arm and connected to the International Space Station. Dragon is scheduled to spend about a week docked with the station before returning to Earth on May 31 for retrieval. (AP Photo/NASA)

NASA and SpaceX have set a date for the Dragon capsule's first contracted cargo resupply flight to the International Space Station after the privately run space transport company's first successful trip to the space station in May.

The Dragon will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on October 7, with a backup opportunity on Oct. 8. The launch will be the first of 12 contracted flights by SpaceX to resupply the space station.

"SpaceX services under the CRS contract will restore an American capability to deliver and return significant amounts of cargo, including science experiments, to the orbiting laboratory: a feat not achievable since the retirement of the space shuttle," NASA said in a press release.

The Dragon will carry about 1,000 pounds of supplies, including critical materials to support the 166 investigations planned for the station's crew, including 63 new investigations.

Expedition 33 Commander Sunita Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will use a robot arm to grapple the Dragon following its rendezvous with the station on Wednesday, Oct. 10. They will attach the Dragon to the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony module for a few weeks while crew members unload cargo and load experiment samples for return to Earth.

Dragon is scheduled to return in late October for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.