One [not so] small step for Crew Dragon; one giant leap for SpaceX.
SpaceX just finished yet another milestone in the historic journey of Crew Dragon. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley successfully docked the capsule with Cape Canaveral’s International Space Station just under 19 hours after launch. The process, which has been largely automated, was uneventful. At one point the crew tested manual operation which they said had behaved much like the simulator.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will conduct a series of pressure and leak control systems to ensure their safety before opening the hatch and entering the station. They’ll then join fellow astronaut Chris Cassidy of NASA and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the station.
The docking had been a sensitive and dangerous part of the mission. The spacecraft chased down the space station, traveling at 17,500 meters per hour in orbit, but then approached very slowly in a series of carefully choreographed maneuvers, reports Washington Post.
Do not expect a quick return after that. Behnken and Hurley should spend weeks aboard the ISS before returning to the Blue Planet. Solar arrays of the capsule are rated in space only for 119 days, so it will have to return by fall no matter how eager the astronauts may be to stay. No matter how long they stay, it’s a historic moment — because it’s the first time a private crew docked in orbit. If everything goes well, then this is a significant step towards making space travel more accessible.