On May 22, 2012, the American aerospace company SpaceX launched the first private cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on Dragon 1, a reusable cargo spacecraft. Since this was the first "real" flight, only 1,000-pounds of supplies were sent, although Dragon is designed to hold up to 13,000-pounds. Dragon's maiden flight was actually in December 2010, when it became the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to be successfully recovered from orbit.
Image Credit: NASA
Fun Fact: SpaceX's CEO, Elon Musk, named the spacecraft after the 1963 song "Puff, the Magic Dragon" performed by Peter, Paul and Mary.
Common supplies such as food, water and clothing were on this first cargo mission, along with a handful of student experiments and the remains of almost three hundred cremated people -- including Mercury Program astronaut Gordon Cooper Jr. (I just wrote a blog about his final Mercury Program flight last week) and James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series. Three days after launching, Dragon triumphantly rendezvoused with and attached to the ISS, delivering all supplies on board.
It was in August 2006 that NASA announced that SpaceX had been chosen, along with Kistler Aerospace, to develop cargo launch services for the ISS. In 2008, NASA awarded a $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract to SpaceX. The contract required twelve flights, with an overall minimum of 44,000-pounds/20,000 kilograms of cargo to be carried to the ISS. In 2015, SpaceX was allocated an additional three missions under Phase 1 of the contract, and another five missions the next year. Phase 2 is supposed to cover years 2019-2024.