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March 01, 2013

SpaceX Dragon Makes its Third Trip to International Space Station Today

By Rory Lidstone, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, more commonly known as SpaceX (News - Alert), successfully launched its Falcon this morning at 10:10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time from Cape Canaveral loaded with the company's Dragon capsule, which is filled with over a ton of supplies and experiments for the International Space Station.

Key research items sent as part of this supply run include mouse stem cells and protein crystals.

SpaceX president, Gwynne Shotwell, also said some healthy snacks were added to the supply run, namely fruits from an employee's father's orchard. "It's a little bit healthier, I think, than the one that NASA sent last time," she joked in a statement.

SpaceX's last supply run included chocolate-vanilla swirl ice cream.

Most interestingly, a variety of plant life will be sent up, including 640 seeds of mouse-ear cress, which is commonly used in research. Paint was also sent up in order to see how it will behave in space.

This is SpaceX's third space station visit to the International Space Station. The previous run went up in October 2012. During that supply run, the Dragon capsule spent about 18 days attached to the station, during which time astronauts unloaded its 882 pounds of supplies, before returning to Earth. The Dragon first made its way up to the station in May 2012.

This time, the Dragon will spend more than three weeks at the space station before returning with a full load of medical specimens, fish, plants and old equipment.

Space X can look forward to more supply runs as it has been contracted by NASA for 12 delivery runs. Russia, Europe and Japan all contribute to supply delivery to the space station, but no other cargo craft can return goods like the SpaceX Dragon. 

Live video by Ustream

Meanwhile, SpaceX is working on modifying the Dragon to be able to send astronauts to the station within a few years.

Edited by Braden Becker

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