Science

SpaceX Crew Dragon Lands Crucial Station Docking

SpaceX Crew Dragon Lands Crucial Station Docking”

The Crew Dragon spacecraft unmanned test flight launched early Saturday morning.

The next step for SpaceX and NASA now is another safety test known as the "in-flight abort test". SpaceX has just tweeted the capsule is metres away from its destination.

In a historic moment during a weekend of historic moments for spaceflight, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully attached to the International Space Station's Harmony module forward port via "soft capture" at 5:51 a.m. EST Sunday, according to NASA.

That the docking procedure went without error is not only a sigh of relief for NASA's Commercial Crew Program-the project to replace the retired Space Shuttle that is years behind schedule-but excellent news for the three astronauts now residing on the station.

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.

As the capsule closed in on the space station, its nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth to expose the docking mechanism.

BRIDENSTINE: We have another five days before the Dragon releases from the International Space Station and comes home safely.

Although SpaceX has been flying a cargo-based version of the Dragon to the station since 2012, the new Dragon has been entirely remade for crew. The successful maneuver was also greeted with cheers from the Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters of Elon Musk's ambitious space company.

The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years.

During the rendezvous, Dragon went through numerous milestones, first coming into view at around 3,000 meters out, before approaching towards the Approach Elipsode and arrive at Waypoint 0.

BRIDENSTINE: Elon Musk chose to name the mannequin Ripley after the character in the movie "Alien".

"We are not in a space race", he said.

The crew also took selfies and videos, including a few shots with Crew Dragon's second passenger, a small, stuffed Earth with limbs and a perplexed facial expression that bounced about the capsule in microgravity. Engineers will be carefully watching sound, vibration and other stresses on the spacecraft, while monitoring the life-support, communication and propulsion systems. Once this is completed, the Dragon could be cleared to undertake a manned flight.

For SpaceX, this flight is a key milestone in its 17-year history. NASA now pays $82 million per seat.

Boeing, which is working on its own CST-100 Starliner craft for the Commercial Crew Program, has yet to launch an uncrewed test but is scheduled to do so no earlier than April.



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