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The not-so-secret souvenirs riding historic SpaceX capsule flight to space station


SpaceX embroidered patches for their first attempt at flying their Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. (collectSPACE)
This article was updated May 19 after an engine shutdown forced a scrub. The launch date has been updated.

May 18, 2012 — The first U.S. commercial spacecraft to attempt to visit the International Space Station, SpaceX's Dragon, will launch filled with cargo — and something a bit extra — for the orbiting outpost.

The inaugural payload weighs approximately 1200 pounds (544 kilograms) and is mostly comprised of food for the station's crew, student experiments, and storage bags, but the capsule's compliment also includes a stash of space souvenirs commemorating the history-making mission.

SpaceX's second test flight of its unmanned cargo craft, which is set to launch at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT) on Tuesday (May 22) will need to clear a series of approach and maneuvering tests before NASA approves it moving close enough to the station for the crew to grab hold and berth it using the outpost's robotic arm.

If all proceeds as planned though, the Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) 2 mission will be recorded as the first time that a commercial craft linked up with an orbiting complex.


Artist's rendition of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft approaching its first berth to the International Space Station. (SpaceX)
As released by NASA and SpaceX, the cargo manifest for the COTS-2 mission includes a line item described only as the "Official Flight Kit" or OFK. The term dates back to the last of the Apollo moon landings in the 1970s and was used throughout the 30-year space shuttle program.

Simply put, the OFK is a memento-packed pouch carrying the mission's "official" flown-in-space souvenirs.

Patches and pins and more patches (oh my)

The COTS 2 Official Flight Kit manifest, as shared with collectSPACE.com, is more concise than previous space shuttle versions, which could go on for pages with several hundred different categories of souvenirs inventoried. The Dragon OFK has just six entries, but comprises more than 12,000 mementos onboard.


Cargo stowed inside SpaceX's Dragon capsule in preparation for its liftoff on the company's Falcon 9 rocket. (NASA/J. Grossmann)
The OFK includes: 2,000 lapel pins that are in the shape of the space station; 2,900 patches, 4,000 decals and 750 lapel pins with the NASA COTS 2 emblem; 2,500 SpaceX mission patches; and one copper medallion.

The manifest provided no additional details about the odd memento out, the copper coin.

The OFK items will make a round trip on board the Dragon capsule, which is the only station-visiting spacecraft other than Russia's manned Soyuz that returns to Earth intact. The SpaceX COTS 2 vehicle is expected to splashdown off the coast of San Francisco by the end of May.

Once retrieved after the flight, the OFK souvenirs will be distributed to NASA and SpaceX team members to thank them for their work making the mission a success.

Have patches (and luck), will travel

The two different COTS mission emblems packed onboard the Dragon represent SpaceX and NASA.

The space agency's oval logo depicts a capsule, although not necessarily the Dragon, launching from Earth toward and past a silhouetted space station. The blue, black and gold insignia identifies the flight as "SpaceX C2+" referring to the mission's attempt to achieve both rendezvous and berthing, separate goals that were originally set by NASA for two test flights.


NASA's emblem for SpaceX's "COTS 2+" Dragon mission. (NASA)
The SpaceX COTS 2 flight patch prominently features the company's capsule, orbiting above the Earth, approaching the space station's outstretched arm (the station itself is not included).

In addition to SpaceX's Dragon logo, the gray, blue and black patch includes a green four-leaf clover — a symbol that has been reproduced on most, if not all of the SpaceX flight and mission emblems.

"For luck," a SpaceX spokesperson said of the symbol.

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