Dragon C2+, also known as SpaceX COTS Demo Flight 2 (COTS 2), was the second test-flight for SpaceX's uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft, launched on the third flight of the company's two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The flight was performed under a funded agreement from NASA as the second Dragon demonstration mission in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The purpose of the COTS program is to develop and demonstrate commercial sources for cargo re-supply of the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon C2+ spacecraft was the first American vehicle to visit the ISS since the end of the Space Shuttle program. It was also the first commercial spacecraft to rendezvous and berth with another spacecraft.
Initially, the objectives of the C2+ mission were to have been accomplished by two separate missions; Dragon C2 would have carried out a fly-by of the ISS, practiced rendezvous maneuvers and communications with the station, before returning to Earth. A second mission, C3, would have been the first mission to berth with the station. In July 2011, NASA gave tentative approval to combine the objectives of the two missions. In December 2011, NASA formally approved the merger of the COTS 2 and 3 missions into the Dragon C2+ flight. There were several launch delays, the last one occurring on 19 May 2012, due to a launch abort during the last second before liftoff.
Dragon C2+ successfully launched from Cape Canaveral on 22 May 2012. During the mission's first three days all of the COTS 2 objectives were successfully completed. The mission's COTS 3 phase began on 25 May when Dragon rendezvoused again with the ISS and then was successfully captured using the Canadarm2. It was berthed to the station later that day, using the robotic arm. Dragon stayed for almost six days during which the astronauts unloaded cargo, and then reloaded Dragon with Earth-bound cargo. On 31 May, Dragon unberthed from the ISS, its capsule landed in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast and was recovered. All the objectives of the mission were successfully completed, and the Falcon 9-Dragon system became certified to start regular cargo delivery missions to the ISS under the Commercial Resupply Services program.