SpaceX’s new crew capsule aces space station docking

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Cranbrook city hall.
Curbside recycling collection program set for May debut

A residential curbside recycling collection program is expected to begin in Cranbrook… Continue reading

Cranbrook's Donald and Sharleen March won $75,000 in a scratch and win ticket, according to the BC Lottery Corporation.
Cranbrook couple wins $75,000 with scratch ticket

A Cranbrook couple is the recipient of a cool $75,000 from a… Continue reading

Images from yesteryear: The Cranbrook Girls Bugle Band, with Joyce Metcalfe standing second from left.
Remembering Joyce Metcalfe, and the Cranbrook Girls Bugle Band

Isn’t it amazing when by chance in this huge world of ours, meet outstanding people that greatly influence our lives? One such person was Joyce Metcalfe.

Pictured are Meredith Funston of Cranbrook Food Recovery (left), Shannon Grey Duncan of Kimberley Food Recovery (middle) and Wade Jarvis of Bohemian Spirits (right). The three have teamed up to divert bread from the landfill and turn it into ethanol, which is used to make hand sanitizer. (Corey Bullock file)
Cranbrook, Kimberley organizations team up to turn excess bread into ethanol

Local food recovery programs have teamed up with Bohemian Spirits to keep bread out of the landfill

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Most Read