Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

Astronauts Welcome SpaceX's Crew Dragon to Space Station (Ripley and Earth, Too!)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Demo 1 crew capsule lifts off from pad 39A Saturday A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Demo 1 crew capsule lifts off from pad 39A Saturday
Sandra Phillips | 07 March, 2019, 00:28

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A SpaceX rocket with an unmanned crew capsule blasted off on Saturday for the International Space Station, in a key milestone for Elon Musk's space company and NASA's long-delayed goal to resume human spaceflight from USA soil later this year.

Eastern Time (10:51 GMT) after 27 hours after the capsule's launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years docked successfully Sunday at the International Space Station.

Eleven minutes later, the confirmation came from SpaceX mission control: "Dragon separation confirmed".

MARTIN: Bridenstine says the entire mission so far has been a success, from the launch to the docking at the International Space Station.

The company has been sending an earlier version of its capsule to the ISS for a number of years, but in those instances the space station's robotic arm has helped the smaller vehicle successfully dock.

The Saturday morning launch went off without a hitch, much to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's relief. Shortly after the docking, Ripley was joined by the three astronauts now living on the ISS who donned precautionary oxygen masks to check the atmosphere aboard.

This test dummy, nicknamed Ripley after the Sigourney Weaver character in the Alien movies, will be covered in sensors.

Dragon 2, also known as Crew Dragon, performed a flawless autonomous docking with ISS.

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The crew for Demo-2 is scheduled to be Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who piloted the final space shuttle mission, so the return to space for Hurley is full of significance, especially for NASA's Commercial Crew program.

"This flight test will inform the system design, operations and drive any changes that need to be made ahead of crew flights". That "soft docking" was the first step in an hours-long procedure to latch the Crew Dragon securely to the station, hook up power and data connections, and open the way for hatch opening.

Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it undocks and aims for a splashdown in the Atlantic, a couple hundred miles off the Florida coast.

It will also be the first time that a fully owned and operated commercial enterprise has ferried U.S. astronauts into space.

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

Nasa is also working with Boeing on crew transport. Soyuz tickets have skyrocketed over the years; NASA now pays $82 million per seat.

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

"Congratulations to all of the teams on a successful docking", NASA astronaut Anne McClain radioed from the station.

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

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