SpaceX's Crew Dragon successfully docks at International Space Station

Christopher Davidson
March 7, 2019

After months of delay, SpaceX's Dragon Crew capsule was successfully launched into space this morning, the first step of an unmanned crew flight that will set the stage for the first manned space mission to lift off from United States soil in almost a decade.

Dragon Hatch opened at 1307.

It lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, sitting atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA is anxious for reliable transit to and from the space station.

This latest, flashiest Dragon is on a fast track to reach the space station Sunday morning, just 27 hours after liftoff.

The three U.S., Canadian and Russian crew members aboard the space station watched the rendezvous via TV cameras. Also, the Crew Dragon's approach procedure included a test to demonstrate that the crew could issue commands to have the capsule back away from a standoff distance of about 140 meters (460 feet).

The Demo-1 mission marks the first flight of the new and improved Dragon 2 spacecraft, which is longer and more massive than its Dragon 1 predecessor.

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station

"It's been 17 years, we still haven't launched anyone yet, but hopefully we will later this year". The next one coming up will have its own two-man crew.

Currently, America relies on Russian Federation to launch astronauts to the space station. The historic milestone takes place in outer space this time, with its Crew Dragon spacecraft checking a few "firsts" off its list. The astronauts wore oxygen masks and hoods until getting the all-clear. Both SpaceX and Boeing are vying for manned space missions from NASA and Boeing will test its Starliner system as early as April. He was at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida when the crewless vessel launched yesterday morning. 'Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight'. They burst into applause again, several minutes later, when the Dragon's latches were tightly secured. Dragon 1, which has been flying cargo resupply missions to the ISS since 2012, only maneuvered close enough to be grappled by the station's robotic arm, which then moved the spacecraft into position to be berthed.

The dummy riding in the capsule - which SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann prefers to call a "smartie" - has been nicknamed Ripley in honour of the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the "Alien" movies.

It will spend five days docked to the orbiting outpost, before making a retro-style splashdown in the Atlantic next Friday - all vital training for the next space demo, possibly this summer, when two astronauts strap in.

For SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, sending an astronaut into orbit would be a culmination of years of hard work and high-risk investment.

Next up, though, should be Boeing, NASA's other commercial crew provider.

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