Crew-Dragon successfully docks on the ISS
Phase Three of Demo-2 has successfully concluded ladies and gentlemen! After the historic liftoff that occurred yesterday at 3:22 pm E.T., the Crew Dragon capsule completed its docking on the International Space Station at 10:18 am ET, 10 minutes ahead of the initial ETA, after spending approximately 19 hours in orbit.
How was the docking performed?
The Crew Dragon has a built-in automatic docking system that uses sensors and cameras that helped the capsule to get close to the ISS docking station.
According to a press release by NASA however, about 1 kilometer below the station, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley manually controlled the Crew Dragon and practiced flying it using its touchscreen interface, before the Crew Dragon’s automatic system took control again and docked into the ISS.
While the Demo-2 mission is expected to last between one and four months, The same NASA press release stated that the duration of said mission remains unknown, and will be determined, quote-unquote “based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch”.
Furthermore, it specified that the Crew Dragon spacecraft has the capability “of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement”.
In the meantime, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will board the ISS and become members of the Expedition 63 Crew, and are expected to perform tests on the Crew Dragon itself and conduct research.
What’s at stake for SpaceX?
There’s actually a lot at stake for SpaceX: the mission practically serves as a test flight to validate SpaceX’s crew transportation system and all of its stages: Launch, in-orbit flying, docking and landing.
If the Demo-2 mission is successfully completed a few months from now, it will obtain a certification for regular crew flights to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The Commercial Crew Program is a form of PPP, or Public Private Partnership, between NASA, a federal agency, and private companies such as Space X and Amazon’s Blue Origin, with the goal of furthering space exploration, and in the long run, lower the cost of space access and space travel.
Hence the significance of yesterday’s launch, with SpaceX being the first company to launch astronauts into orbit.