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L.A.-Based SpaceX Completes Historic Mission at Space Station

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A spacecraft produced by a privately-owned Los Angeles-based aerospace company hooked up with the International Space Station today.

SpaceX, located in Hawthorne just a few miles east of the Los Angeles International Airport, is hoping to prove its value to NASA and make space exploration more accessible through private funding. This is the first time that a private company has partnered with NASA to transport cargo to and from the space station.

SpaceX hosted a live webcast at its Hawthorne headquarters of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft at the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The unmanned Dragon passed within about 1.6 miles of the space station Thursday in preparation for this morning's docking. A 58-foot robotic arm controlled by astronaut Don Pettit reached out and grabbed the Dragon, according to the Los Angeles Times. Engineers watching at SpaceX and at mission control in Houston cheered, high-fived and shook hands.

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NASA officials said that crews will begin to unload about a half ton of food, water and other supplies on Saturday.

With the retirement of NASA's Space Shuttle, SpaceX wants its Dragon spacecraft to carry cargo, and one day astronauts, to and from the Space Station for NASA. In 2010, SpaceX became the first commercial company to put a spacecraft into orbit and return it safely to earth, a feat previously achieved by a few of the world's wealthiest and most technologically advanced governments.

SpaceX has about 1,800 employees and has a $1.6-billion contract to haul cargo in 12 flights to the space station for NASA, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the current test mission is successful, SpaceX will begin fulfilling the contract later this year.