Published: Thu, March 07, 2019
Science | By Michele Flores

SpaceX's capsule docks at space station

SpaceX's capsule docks at space station

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay while barnacled to the orbiting laboratory.

Either SpaceX or Boeing will have bragging rights as the first private company to launch humans into orbit on its own rocket, although plans call for rockets built by both companies to carry astronauts into space. Everything went pretty much perfectly, and now it's clear that SpaceX is in the lead and ahead of competitor Boeing in the race to provide NASA with the means to send astronauts into space whenever it wants.

SpaceX has signed a contract with NASA to develop the Dragon capsule.

The docking of the capsule, which has only a dummy on board, was concluded at 1051 GMT, almost 250 miles (400 kilometers) over the surface of the Earth, NASA and SpaceX confirmed during a live broadcast of the mission.

The historic event saw the three astronauts of Expedition 58 aboard the ISS "welcome" Ripley, the smart dummy packed with sensors that were the only occupant aboard Crew Dragon.

Just two hours after the Dragon's grand entrance, the station crew entered to take air samples.

For the test, the Ripley dummy was strapped into the far left seat, wearing the company's snappy white spacesuit.

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The Crew Dragon craft launching from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the International Space Station.

As many as seven astronauts could squeeze in, although four will be the norm once flights get going, allowing for a little cargo room.

Only Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been used since 2011 to deliver cosmonauts, astronauts from the United States and other countries to the ISS.

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. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.

Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered the docking, then burst into applause again when the Dragon's latches were secured. He marvels at how the Dragon has just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit's 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.

The objective is to make the next demo flight, with Hurley and Behnken, as safe as possible.

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