SpaceX’s new crew capsule aces space station docking

NASA is paying the two private companies $8 billion to build and operate the capsules

SpaceX’s sleek, new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day.

No one was aboard the Dragon capsule launched Saturday on its first test flight, only an instrumented dummy. But that quickly changed once the hatch swung open and the space station astronauts floated inside.

This beefed-up, redesigned Dragon is the first American-made, designed-for-crew spacecraft to pull up to the station in eight years. The next one coming up will have its own two-man crew.

“A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of @SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

The space station’s three astronauts had front-row seats as the white 27-foot-long (8-meter-long) capsule neatly docked. Two hours later, the station crew entered to take air samples, wear oxygen masks and hoods until getting the all-clear.

If the six-day demo goes well, SpaceX could launch two astronauts this summer under NASA’s commercial crew program. Both astronauts — Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — were at SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, watching all the action. They rushed there from Florida after the Dragon rocketed into orbit early Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

“Just super excited to see it,” Behnken said minutes after the link-up. “Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here.”

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.

While the private SpaceX has sent plenty of its Dragon capsules filled with cargo to the space station for NASA, crew Dragon is a different beast. It docked on its own, instead of relying on the station’s robot arm for berthing. The capsule’s nose cap was wide open like a dragon’s mouth, to expose the docking mechanism.

Behnken said that’s the way it should work when he and Hurley are on board; they may push a button or two and will have the ability to intervene, if necessary.

READ MORE: Trump signs order to create US Space Command

As part of Sunday’s shakedown, the station astronauts sent commands for the Dragon to retreat and then move forward again, before the capsule closed in for good.

SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered and applauded as crew Dragon pulled up and docked at the orbiting lab, nearly 260 miles (400 kilometres) above the Pacific, north of New Zealand.

The capsule’s lone passenger for launch — a mannequin wearing a white SpaceX spacesuit — remained strapped into its seat as the station’s U.S., Canadian and Russian crew removed supplies and photographed the spotless white interior. The test dummy — or Smarty as SpaceX likes to call it — is named Ripley after the lead character in the science-fiction “Alien” films.

Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight. .

SpaceX aims to launch Behnken and Hurley as early as July.

Next up should be Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew provider. Boeing is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.

NASA is paying the two private companies $8 billion to build and operate the capsules for ferrying astronauts to and from the space station. Astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets ever since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UVic students return from Hong Kong amidst growing tension

All eight University of Victoria exchange students have returned to Canada

65-million-year-old triceratops makes its debut in Victoria

Dino Lab Inc. is excavating the fossilized remains of a 65-million-year-old dinosaur

ICBC, province urge residents to plan ahead for winter weather

Greater Victoria should gear up and have a plan in place

Tillicum Centre evacuated after false alarm in Save-On-Foods

A fire alarm was mistakenly activated by falling food

VIDEO: ‘Climate emergency’ is Oxford’s 2019 Word of the Year

Other words on the shortlist included ‘extinction,’ ‘climate denial’ and ‘eco-anxiety’

POLL: Do you plan on making any purchases on Black Friday?

We’ve all seen the images. Shoppers rioting outside of a store in… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Canucks erupt with 5 power-play goals in win over Nashville

Vancouver ends three-game slide with 6-3 triumph over Predators

Nanaimo man caught with more than 200,000 child porn images to be sentenced

Crown says Aaron Macrae recorded video of children on buses and at his workplace

Vancouver Island hunters may have harvested deer in area known for chronic wasting disease

Conservation officers make urgent request to public for any information

B.C. widow suing health authority after ‘untreatable’ superbug killed her husband

New Public Agency Health report puts Canadian death toll at 5,400 in 2018

Changes to B.C. building code address secondary suites, energy efficiency

Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the changes will help create more affordable housing

Most Read