Sunday, March 03, 2019

Crew Dragon Docks at International Space Station

          By Brian Orlotti

At 5:51 am EST on March 3rd, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) 27 hours after its launch from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The docking marks a major milestone towards restoring indigenous human spaceflight capability to the US.

The main goal of the mission, named Demo-1, was to prove that the Crew Dragon spacecraft can safely carry NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. SpaceX has been developing Crew Dragon under a $2.6Bln US (#3.4Bln CDN) NASA contract, awarded in 2014. The spacecraft is based on SpaceX’s own robotic Dragon spacecraft, which has flown 16 ISS resupply missions to date under a separate NASA contract.

In a first for SpaceX, the Crew Dragon docked itself at the ISS. The cargo-only version of the Dragon spacecraft requires the ISS’s human-controlled robotic arm to grab and then attach it to the station. Crew Dragon made use of the ISS’ new International Docking Adapter.

At 8:07 am EST on March 3rd, the ISS crew opened the hatch to Crew Dragon for the first time and floated inside, with SpaceX livestreaming views of the craft’s interior. Crew Dragon’s cargo consisted of a life-sized dummy astronaut dubbed ‘Ripley’ and a Celestial Buddies Earth plush toy.

Crew Dragon will spend the next five days docked at the ISS. When its mission is complete, the spacecraft will splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on March 8th.

Should Demo-1 conclude successfully, SpaceX will proceed with a ‘high-altitude abort’ test of the Crew Dragon’s emergency crew escape system. Following this will be the Demo-2 mission, scheduled for July.

A major milestone, this flight will have NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley travel to the ISS. If successful, Demo-2 will see the end of US dependence on Russian spacecraft for human spaceflight, some 8 years after the last humans launched from US soil aboard the space shuttle Atlantis.

Such an achievement will prove another jewel in SpaceX’s crown and the beginning of the next chapter of space exploration. Space aficionados everywhere wait with bated breath.
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network operator at the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), a not-for-profit network service provider to the education and research sectors.

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