Private ship delivers cargo to space station

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A private company successfully delivered a half-ton of supplies to the International Space Station early yesterday, the first official shipment under a billion-dollar contract with NASA.

The SpaceX cargo ship, called Dragon, eased up to the orbiting lab, and station astronauts reached out with a robot arm and snared it. Then they firmly latched it down.

"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon," reported space station commander Sunita Williams. "We're happy she's on board with us." Williams thanked SpaceX and NASA for the delivery, especially the chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream stashed in a freezer.

The linkup occurred 250 miles above the Pacific, just west of Baja California, 2 1/2 days after the Dragon's launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"Nice flying," radioed NASA's Mission Control.

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It's the first delivery by the California-based SpaceX company under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, which calls for 12 such shipments.

This newest Dragon holds 1,000 pounds of groceries, clothes, science experiments and other gear. Williams and her crew won't get access to all that until today, when the hatch is opened.

The vessel will remain at the space station for nearly three weeks before departing with almost twice that much cargo at the end of the month. Dragon is the only cargo ship capable of bringing back research and other items, filling a void left by NASA's retired shuttles.

SpaceX, owned by PayPal's billionaire creator Elon Musk, launched Dragon on a Falcon 9 rocket Sunday night. -- AP

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