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Dragon docks at the ISS, delivering first payload

The commercial Dragon capsule has arrived at the International Space Station on its first mission carrying cargo. As for which cargo is most valuable to the astronauts on board, that's probably the ice cream.

The Dragon capsule belonging to the private company SpaceX docked at the International Space Station for the second time on Thursday, this time carrying a payload after its initial test-run.

After a two-day journey, the unmanned capsule reached the orbiting station and was pulled aboard by the astronauts who used a robotic arm to secure it.

"Looks like we've tamed the dragon," commander Sunita Williams of NASA said over the radio. "We're happy she's on board with us. Thanks to everybody at SpaceX and NASA for bringing her here to us. And the ice cream."

One piece of cargo on the Dragon is a freezer designed to preserve samples - it was packed with chocolate swirl vanilla ice cream for the outbound journey.

The capsule is expected to stay attached to the ISS for around 18 days as the three-person crew unloads its 400 kilos (882 pounds) of cargo and then fills it up for the return journey.

Since the end of NASA's shuttle program, no active US vessels were able to reach the ISS - with mission control in Moscow orchestrating all such deliveries.

The operating SpaceX company says it is working with NASA on a revised Dragon capsule that would be able to carry a crew within the next three or four years, the current model is only suitable for unmanned flight.

msh/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)