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SpaceX Dragon flies by space station in test

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida--The world's first private supply ship flew tantalizingly close to the International Space Station on Thursday but did not stop, completing a critical test in advance of Friday's actual docking.

The unmanned SpaceX Dragon capsule performed a practice lap around the orbiting lab and checked out its communication and navigation systems.

Officials at the U.S. space agency, NASA, and the SpaceX company said the rendezvous went well, although test results still were being analyzed.

It is the first U.S. vessel to visit the space station since NASA's shuttles retired last summer — and the first private spacecraft to ever attempt a delivery. The Dragon is carrying 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms) of provisions.

The space station astronauts struggled with bad computer monitors and camera trouble as the Dragon zoomed toward them, but the problem did not hold up the operation.

The astronauts successfully turned on Dragon's strobe light by remote control, but could not see it because of the sun glare and distance. The Dragon finally popped into camera view about 10 minutes later, appearing as a bright speck of light against the blackness of space, near the Earth's blue horizon. The two solar wings were clearly visible as the Dragon drew closer.

“Can nicely see the vehicle,” Dutch spaceman Andre Kuipers said.

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