Saturday, 23 March, 2019

ISS Astronauts Meet SpaceX Ship Crew After Historic Docking (PHOTO, VIDEO)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule lifts off from pad 39A on Saturday in Cape Canaveral Fla. Image Terry Renna  AP A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule lifts off from pad 39A on Saturday in Cape Canaveral Fla. Image Terry Renna AP
Doris Mccormick | 07 March, 2019, 00:28

The successful voyage of SpaceX's unmanned Crew Dragon to the International Space Station this weekend put the US one tantalizing step closer to the day when American rockets will again ferry the nation's astronauts into space.

Astronaut Anne McClain inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon now docked with the International Space Station.

The Crew Dragon used the station's new global docking adapter for the first time since astronauts installed it during a spacewalk in August 2016, following its delivery to the station in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on its ninth commercial resupply services mission.

In this photo provided by SpaceX, the SpaceX team in Hawthorne, Calif., watches as the SpaceX Crew Dragon docks with the International Space Station's Harmony module, Sunday, March 3, 2019.

There was a chance that the Crew Dragon, which Russian space operators warned did not have a backup docking system, would fail to successfully attach to the station.

This morning, I monitored the first time ever approach and automated docking of Crew #Dragon to the ISS.

Crew Dragon is occupied by a single dummy named Ripley - named after the protagonist of 1979 science fiction horror film Alien.

Although the contact appeared slow, the ISS and the capsule were moving at more than 27,000km/h in orbit around the Earth.

NASA broke the news in a tweeted video of the docking, which elicited roaring cheers from those watching. That's the final hurdle before the system would be certified to enter the official rotation of crew-carrying flights. The former astronaut said he was heartened to see that the new propulsion, communication, and other systems on Crew Dragon all were performing as expected so far, with the biggest tests yet to come with docking to the station, and reentry through Earth's atmosphere.

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Dragon first stabilized seven kilometers behind the ISS, and 2.5 kilometers below it.

"We're on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011".

Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it will undock for an old-school, "Right Stuff"-style splashdown in the Atlantic, a few hundred miles off Florida". NASA now pays $82 million per seat.

For SpaceX, this flight is a key milestone in its 17-year history.

"It's been a long eight years", the Kennedy Space Centre's director Bob Cabana, a former astronaut himself, said as SpaceX employees milled around the rocket.

If all goes well, SpaceX could taxi two astronauts as early as this summer.

Nasa is also working with Boeing on crew transport.

Boeing said it expects to test-fly its Starliner capsule next month, with astronauts on board possibly in August.

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