Space

SpaceX's Crew Dragon docks with ISS in historic maneuver

SpaceX's Crew Dragon docks wit...
SpaceX's Crew Dragon docks itself with the ISS in March
SpaceX's Crew Dragon docks itself with the ISS in March
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SpaceX's Crew Dragon docks itself with the ISS in March
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SpaceX's Crew Dragon docks itself with the ISS in March
A look inside the Crew Dragon capsule while docked at the ISS
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A look inside the Crew Dragon capsule while docked at the ISS

Following its successful liftoff and entry into orbit on Saturday, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft has ticked off another critical milestone in its first mission to space, dubbed Demo-1. The unmanned capsule has now successfully docked with the ISS following a first-of-a-kind maneuver, clearing the way for astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory to open up the hatch and have a poke around.

SpaceX has been delivering and collecting cargo from the ISS using its Dragon spacecraft for years, but Saturday's launch was the first time a version decked out for human travel was fired into obit. Lifting off aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday morning, the spacecraft carried out a series of orbital maneuvers to set itself on course for a rendezvous with the Space Station the following day.

When SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft travels to the ISS with cargo, it is captured by the crew using the station's robotic arm and pulled into place. But the Crew Dragon spacecraft's docking procedure is a little different, instead relying on automated control software to attach itself to the desired module on the outside of the station.

For that reason, with live crew inside, mission control treaded carefully, arriving at a distance of around 150 meters (492 ft) away, before backing off to around 180 m (590 ft) and only then delivering the final command to dock as crew watched on inside.

A look inside the Crew Dragon capsule while docked at the ISS
A look inside the Crew Dragon capsule while docked at the ISS

Using the station's new international docking adapter, which was installed during a 2015 spacewalk, the Crew Dragon then successfully attached itself to the Harmony module at around 6am on Sunday morning, marking the first autonomous docking of any US spacecraft to the ISS.

After some leak and pressurization checks, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canada's David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko opened up the hatch and ventured inside. Though the craft didn't carry any humans this time around, a test dummy called Ripley did go along for the ride to gather biometric data using built-in sensors. Also packed inside were around 400 lb (181 kg) of supplies and equipment.

The capsule will remain in place for a total of five days before gearing up for its next challenge, a return to Earth. This equally vital testing phase will see Crew Dragon zip through the Earth's atmosphere before deploying a set of four parachutes designed to bring it down gently onto the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Using a brand new purpose-built recovery vessel, SpaceX is then required to get the spacecraft out of the water within one hour of splashdown.

Source: NASA

4 comments
usugo
first-of-a-kind maneuver? I believe spacex capsules have already docked with the ISS a number of times to carry goods and take away waste. The only difference being the capsule is set up to carry humans and there is a dummy in it
Kpar
usugo, you missed the fact that this used autonomous docking vs. robotic arm retrieval and docking. Yeah, the Russkies have long used autonomy for docking, but, in general, this truly IS a set of firsts. I wish SpaceX well in their future endeavors, not to mention Blue Origin, Rocket Labs, ArianeSpace, etc., etc., etc.
Grunchy
I want to see the SpaceX rescue submarine for flooded caverns. C'mon guys: where are your priorities??
ljaques
Bravo, SpaceX, for another job well done. Congrats, Ripley, on your historic flight. May your data fully enlighten us!