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SpaceX Cargo Dragon wraps up two-day rendezvous with smooth space station docking

Wrapping up a smooth rendezvous, an unpiloted SpaceX Cargo Dragon carrying 3 tons of supplies and equipment, including fresh fruit, research gear and other hardware, caught up with the International Space Station early Thursday and moved in for an automated docking.

Launched Tuesday from the Kennedy Space Center, the Cargo Dragon approached from behind and below, passing directly below the station before looping up to a point directly ahead. From there, it moved straight in, engaging the forward Harmony module's docking mechanism at 7:31 a.m. EDT.

The view from the space station as the Cargo Dragon moved in on final approach. NASA TV

A few moments later, the spacecraft was pulled in for a "hard mate," kicking off a series of leak tests to verify an airtight structural seal. Hatches were expected to be opened later in the day to give the crew access to the Dragon's pressurized cargo cabin.

"Dragon is carrying just under 6,300 pounds of cargo, which includes crew supplies, science investigations, spacewalk equipment and vehicle hardware," said Phil Dempsey, space station transportation integration manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The view from the Dragon as it lined up for docking about 720 feet directly in front of the space station. NASA TV

Also on board: fresh food for the station's seven-man crew, including apples, blueberries, grapefruit, oranges, cherry tomatoes and, at the crew's request, a selection of cheeses.

The Cargo Dragon is expected to remain docked at the station for about a month. After it's unloaded, the spacecraft will be packed with research samples, components needing refurbishment or repair, trash and no-longer-needed equipment.

The Dragon, the only space station cargo ship capable of bringing material back to Earth, is expected to undock and return to splashdown and recovery on April 15.

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