SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully docks with ISS

Christopher Davidson
March 7, 2019

The white, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station almost 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay while barnacled to the orbiting laboratory. After final confirmation from ground teams at SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, and NASA's control center in Houston, the spacecraft began to close the final 20 meters (66 feet).

A day after its launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX's uncrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft has efficiently docked with the Worldwide Area Station, CNN reported on Sunday.

The United States gave-up this capability NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques pronounced the docking flawless and called it "a attractive thing to see".

Enlarge ImageNASA astronaut Anne Mc Clain hangs out with the little Earth plushie from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission.                  NASA
Enlarge ImageNASA astronaut Anne Mc Clain hangs out with the little Earth plushie from the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission. NASA

At Saturday's post-launch news conference, Musk said he'd be happy to fly on the revamped Dragon. At 10:51 UTC (05:51 EST), a full nine minutes ahead of schedule, the spacecraft successfully docked with the global docking adaptor at the forward end of the Harmony module.

The historic event saw the three astronauts of Expedition 58 aboard the ISS "welcome" Ripley, the smart dummy packed with sensors that were the only occupant aboard Crew Dragon.

If the spacecraft's descent proceeds in a normal regime, it will travel to the orbital outpost with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on its board in July.

In 2014, the U.S. space office granted contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to assume control over the task of shipping space astronauts to the space station.

Founded by billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX has made the trip to the ISS a dozen times since 2012, but only to bring cargo to the station. "Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here". The SpaceX Dragon capsule will return to Earth on Friday. Some of the equipment needs more work - possibly even redesign - before serving human passengers.

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