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Tamed Dragon supply ship finally docks at ISS

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- A private Earth-to-orbit delivery service has made good on its latest shipment to the International Space Station, overcoming mechanical problems and delivering a ton of supplies with high-flying finesse.

To NASA's relief, the SpaceX company's Dragon capsule pulled up to the orbiting lab Sunday with all of its systems in perfect order. Station astronauts used a hefty robot arm to snare the unmanned Dragon, and three hours later, it was bolted into place.

The Dragon's arrival couldn't have been sweeter — and not because of the fresh fruit on board for the six-man station crew. Coming a full day late, the 250-mile (400-kilometer)-high linkup above Ukraine culminated a two-day chase that got off to a shaky, almost dead-ending start.

Moments after the Dragon reached orbit Friday, a clogged pressure line or stuck valve prevented the timely release of the solar panels and the crucial firing of small maneuvering rockets. SpaceX flight controllers struggled for several hours before gaining control of the capsule and salvaging the mission.

“As they say, it's not where you start, but where you finish that counts,” space station commander Kevin Ford said after capturing the Dragon capsule, “and you guys really finished this one on the mark.”

He added: “We've got lots of science on there to bring aboard and get done. So congratulations to all of you.”

Among the items on board: 640 seeds of a flowering weed used for research, mouse stem cells, food and clothes for the six men on board the space station, trash bags, computer equipment, air purifiers, spacewalking tools and batteries. The company also tucked away apples and other fresh treats from an employee's family orchard.

The Dragon will remain at the space station for most of March before returning to Earth with science samples, empty food containers and old equipment.

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