SpaceX's Crew Dragon makes history with successful docking at the ISS

Pablo Tucker
June 1, 2020

Appropriately, that final flight of space shuttle Atlantis was piloted by astronaut Doug Hurley, who commanded Saturday's Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission. On Sunday, Behnken and Hurley were welcomed aboard the station by American astronaut Chris Cassidy along with two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

With their trip to the space station completed, the pair can claim victory in an epic game of capture the flag, taking possession of the American flag that was brought to the station on the last shuttle flight, and was waiting to return to Earth by the first crew to reach the station from US soil.

The capsule arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule, as astronauts Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley took over manual control for the docking.

It was the first spaceflight on a private rocket, almost a decade after the last launch of astronauts from American territory.

While Russia saluted the United States, it also stressed Sunday it was puzzled by the frenzy unleashed by what many hailed as the dawn of a new era.

The mission is a key milestone on the way to NASA certifying the Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the ISS.

Their Dragon capsule - supplied and operated by the private SpaceX company - attached to the bow section of the orbiting lab 422km above China.

The first launch attempt scheduled for last Wednesday was postponed because of stormy weather in the vicinity of the Kennedy Space Center in the southeastern state of Florida.

SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched two Americans into orbit from Florida on Saturday in a landmark mission marking the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years. He founded Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies, in 2002.

Musk also managed to get in a diplomatic dig at Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin, who said during the 2014 Ukraine crisis that US sanctions against Russia would have a negative effect on NASA.

SpaceX docking with Space Station: After a delay of a few days, SpaceX launched two astronauts to the International Space Station on May 30. Upon splashdown off Florida's Atlantic coast, the crew will be picked up by the SpaceX recovery ship and returned to the dock at Cape Canaveral. "We're going to stay vigilant until we bring them safely home".

SpaceX and Nasa need a clean crewed demonstration so they can move swiftly to the next phase of the company's $2.6bn (£2.1bn) contract, which will encompass six astronaut "taxi" flights, with the first of these likely to occur at the end of August.

The craft is an "exciting ride", and "not like the simulator", Brehnken said as the capsule was linked up to the space station.

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