Space X Crew Capsule Reaches Space Station

04 March, 2019, 08:54 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule

SpaceX's new Dragon capsule successfully docked on the International Space Station on Sunday, NASA and SpaceX confirmed during a live broadcast of the mission.

In this image taken from NASA Television, Sunday, March 3, 2019.

The Crew Dragon is created to stay docked to station for up to 210 days, although the spacecraft used for this flight test will remain docked to the space station only five days, departing Friday, March 8, NASA said.

The mission is a test launch with only a dummy on board the capsule ahead of a manned flight scheduled for later this year.

The entire procedure was light on showmanship compared to SpaceX's last major flight test, when the company launched a red Tesla into space on its Falcon Heavy rocket.

In SpaceX's case, NASA has agreed to pay $2.6 billion for six round trips to the ISS. The successful maneuver was also greeted with cheers from the Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters of Elon Musk's ambitious space company.

Dragon 2 will be the first SpaceX vehicle to attempt an autonomous docking in orbit.

NASA said the the unmanned craft was a significant step for "launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space". It docked autonomously, instead of relying on the station's robot arm for help. A crewed test launch of the Crew Dragon with actual astronauts aboard could take place as soon as July.

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In less than a decade, SpaceX has become a key partner for NASA, in addition to dominating the market for private satellite launches. Crew now aboard the ISS completed a checkout of the docking port in advance of Saturday's launch, and verified the docking system was "go" for docking.

With permission to enter the Keep Out Sphere (KOS), Dragon approached to within 150 meters of the docking port, where the station's crew will test a retreat command.

Before lift-off, Musk tweeted a photo of the inside of the Crew Dragon capsule with the Ripley mannequin strapped in it. The US government is also eager to have the ability to fly to the ISS without buying seats on Russian Soyuz capsules. TV cameras on Dragon as well as the station provided stunning views of one another throughout the rendezvous.

Bridenstine has explained that NASA wants to reduce costs in low orbit to devote resources to getting back to the Moon and assembling a small space station in lunar orbit in the 2020s. But it won't happen before 2023 - with the rocket, far more powerful than that used for the Dragon mission, still in development. Thermal vacuum testing conducted past year revealed less than nominal performance within the full thermal environment the Draco thrusters were expected to experience during the Demo-1 mission.

"Congratulations to all the teams on a successful docking", NASA astronaut Anne McClain radioed Mission Control from aboard the space station.

Dragon's hatch is set to be closed at 12:25 PM EST (17:25 UTC) on Thursday, March 7.

The space station's three astronauts had front-row seats as the white 27-foot-long (8-meter-long) capsule neatly docked, a little early no less.

It's expected to touch down in the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere off the coast of Florida near Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.

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