SpaceX rocket docks at the International Space Station
04 March, 2019, 08:56 | Author: Emilio Conner
Dragon will spend five days attached to the space station as astronauts continue tests on the capsule before it hurtles back to Earth.
The uncrewed SpaceX capsule made history earlier this morning (March 3) when it docked at the space station, becoming the first commercial crew vehicle to ever visit the orbiting laboratory and the first to launch into orbit from US soil since NASA's space shuttle Atlantis in 2011.
This Demo-1 mission is a critical test of the spacecraft, confirming the performance of its key systems and identifying any issues that need to be corrected before a crewed test flight, Demo-2, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board.
The celebration was a milestone for Musk, who launched the company in 2002 with the goal of taking humans into space and one day colonizing Mars.
Ripley was joined in the ship's maiden flight by Little Earth - a plush toy which looks like the Earth with arms and legs. Docking is scheduled for approximately 6:00 AM EST (11:00 UTC) on Sunday, March 3.
International Space Station approach zones Two zones dictate how vehicles approach the International Space Station: the approach ellipsoid, which is 4-by-2 kilometers wide, and a smaller keep out sphere, which is 200 meters wide.
NASA under the Trump administration and new leader Jim Bridenstine has made returning crewed launches to the United States a top priority.
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". "We have to dock to the station".
A single action item concerning Dragon's approach to the station was identified during the Flight Readiness Review (FRR) conducted before launch. Now, slightly more than 24 hours later, the next phase of the test has played out. The astronauts wore oxygen masks and hoods until getting the all-clear.
If all goes well, SpaceX could taxi two astronauts as early as this summer. Tourists flocked to the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to watch the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket at 2.49am local time on Saturday.
"Just super excited to see it", Behnken said minutes after the linkup. We want them to be real one... The capsule's nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth, to expose the docking mechanism.
As part of Sunday's shakedown, the space station astronauts sent commands for Dragon to retreat and then move forward again, before the capsule closed in for good.
Provided the mission is successful and following further testing, a Demo-2 crewed test flight could be heading to the ISS in July.
"Soft capture confirmed", mission control reported as SpaceX employees watching the rendezvous unfold at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, burst into cheers and applause. A test dummy "Ripley" sits behind her in a SpaceX spacesuit. If everything isn't flawless and ready to go right at 2:49 a.m. EST, the launch will be pushed back to Tuesday at the earliest.
Next up, though, should be Boeing, NASA's other commercial crew provider.
The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years.
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