Dragon capsule heads for space station

07 March, 2019, 00:28 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Autopilot The Dragon managed to dock itself without any input from astronauts in the space station or mission control

A SpaceX rocket with a newly designed unmanned crew capsule has successfully blasted off from a launch pad in the U.S. state of Florida bound for the International Space Station.

The Space X Crew Dragon capsule lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket early Saturday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

The three-person crew on the International Space Station gave a warm welcome to SpaceX's first Crew Dragon spacecraft (and its mock astronaut "Ripley") today to mark a flawless arrival by America's newest spaceship.

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. Both astronauts - Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken - were at SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, observing all the action.

Crew Dragon will dock to the forward port of the space station's Harmony module, which has been fitted with an International Docking Adaptor (IDA).

The Crew Dragon is expected to reach the space station Sunday morning, merely 27 hours after liftoff. That's the part of the uncrewed test run that concerns SpaceX CEO Elon Musk the most, the BBC wrote.

Dragon was gradually climbing in altitude toward the ISS, which is orbiting the Earth at around 400 kilometers altitude and at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour - orbiting the Earth in 90 minutes.

Jim Bridenstine, head of the United States space agency, has explained NASA wants to reduce costs in low orbit to devote resources to getting back to the Moon and constructing a small space station in lunar orbit in the 2020s.

SpaceX rocket launches towards the International Space Station
Dragon roars: SpaceX's first crew test flight goes well so far

If all goes smoothly, Crew Dragon could conduct a second test flight, with live crew, as soon as April.

Astronaut David Saint-Jacques and cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko swung open the hatch and entered the capsule at 7:07 a.m. Houston time, where NASA employees watched. Engineers will be carefully watching sound, vibration and other stresses on the spacecraft, while monitoring the life-support, communication and propulsion systems.

SpaceX may get there first, in July based on how the test schedules are shaping up, with Boeing following just a few weeks later.

Dragon crew capsules will splashdown in the Atlantic not far from Kennedy.

"We're going to learn a ton from this mission", said NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders.

NASA is paying the two private companies $8 billion to build and operate the capsules for ferrying astronauts to and from the space station.

The Falcon rocket is the same vehicle the company uses to loft cargo to the International Space Station and to put satellites in orbit.

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