SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft has begun its historic approach to the International Space Station (ISS).
Should all proceed as planned, the commercial cargo craft will be captured by the orbiting complex's robotic arm at just before 7 a.m. CDT (1200 GMT) on Friday (May 25).
[i][b]Above[/b]: The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft approaches the International Space Station on May 24, 2012 for a series of tests to clear it for its final rendezvous and grapple on May 25.[/i]
The unmanned cargo capsule completed its Approach and Initiation burn at 3:18 a.m. CDT (0818 GMT), heading for a point 1,150 feet (350 meters) below the station. At that point, the Dragon will perform a 180 yaw maneuver before continuing to the next "go/no go" hold point of 820 feet (250 meters) below the space station.
In the interim, two more mid-course correction burns will be made to fine-tune Dragon's approach.
The spacecraft began its approach to the station at a distance of 0.9 miles (1.4 kilometers), at which point Dragon's thermal image sensors spotted the orbital laboratory.
ISS Expedition 31 flight engineers Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers are actively monitoring Dragon's approach from inside the space station's cupola and beginning to prepare the robotic arm to grab hold of the spacecraft at 6:59 a.m. CDT (1159 GMT).