SpaceX successfully launches Crew Dragon

Gwen Vasquez
March 7, 2019

"SpaceX's Crew Dragon, created to transport astronauts to the International Space Station from USA soil, is flying on its own in orbit following an on-time launch".

More than just its first unmanned test flight, the Crew Dragon Demo-1 also made a historic first automated docking with the International Space Station. On Sunday, the ISS crew watched as Crew Dragon became the first American commercial space vehicle created to carry humans to dock at the station, according to NASA.

Steve Stich, NASA launch manager and deputy manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program said the test was "vital" for reestablishing NASA's human spaceflight programme.

NASA said the space station's three-member crew was expected to greet the capsule, carrying 400 pounds of supplies and test equipment early on Sunday morning. The successful maneuver was also greeted with cheers from the Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters of Elon Musk's ambitious space company. The capsule's nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth, to expose the docking mechanism. Once they determined that the air inside the Crew Dragon was safe, they swung the door open and allowed it to mix with the air inside the space station.

The current schedule calls for NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken to take their seats on the next Crew Dragon demonstration flight in July.

McClaine: "On behalf of Ripley, little Earth and myself, welcome to the Crew Dragon". SpaceX beamed live views of the capsule's interior, as station crew welcomed the Demo-1 test dummy astronaut Ripley, a lifelike test device outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in Crew Dragon, and a Celestial Buddies Earth plush toy. "This mission puts us a step closer toward re-establishing American access of American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil to the ISS for the first time since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011".

Artwork Crew Dragon approaches ISS
The crew ship will approach the station from the front and dock automatically

Saint-Jacques and Kononenko were the first to enter the Crew Dragon after opening the hatch.

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. Engineers will be carefully watching sound, vibration and other stresses on the spacecraft, while monitoring the life-support, communication and propulsion systems. Now Russian rockets are the only way to get astronauts to the 250-mile-high outpost. It's had to pay to use Russian Soyuz vehicles instead.

As a result, NASA and SpaceX modified the mission design to constrain the thermal environment and ensure the thrusters would be ready for flight.

The next step for SpaceX and NASA now is another safety test known as the "in-flight abort test".

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

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