On This Day in Space! May 22, 2012: SpaceX Launches 1st Private Cargo Mission to the Space Station

On May 22, 2012, SpaceX launched the first commercial cargo flight to the International Space Station. The Dragon was the first American spacecraft to visit the space station since NASA ended the space shuttle program almost a year earlier. 

When the space shuttles were retired, NASA decided to contract private companies to start launching cargo to the space station. SpaceX, which was founded by Elon Musk, launched over 1,000 lbs. of cargo to the space station with its Dragon cargo craft

SpaceX's first space station-bound Dragon spacecraft, flying atop a Falcon 9 rocket, launches behind a high fidelity mockup of the space shuttle, NASA's previous means of delivering cargo to International Space Station. Liftoff occurred on May 22, 2012 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The vessel is actually designed to launch up to 13,000 lbs., but because this was a test flight, it wasn't filled to its maximum capacity. The Dragon brought supplies like food, water and clothing for the space station crew and several student experiments. 

Also on board were cremated remains of more than 300 people. This included the ashes of the Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, and James Doohan, the actor who played Scotty on "Star Trek." The mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket and arrived at the space station three days later.

See the Evolution of SpaceX's Rockets in Pictures

SpaceX's Dragon: First Private Spacecraft to Reach the Space Station

6 Fun Facts About Private Rocket Company SpaceX

Catch up on our entire "On This Day In Space" series on YouTube with this playlist.

On This Day in Space Archive!

Still not enough space? Don't forget to check out our Space Image of the Day, and on the weekends our Best Space Photos and Top Space News Stories of the week

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at community@space.com.