Crew Dragon capsule’s soft-capture docking complete

SpaceX’s historic launch of the first ever human space mission by a private company, is writing more history today. The Crew Dragon capsule that carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, successfully docked to the International Space Station, while also testing both manual and automated docking mechanisms.

The Crew Dragon capsule was docked to the International Space Station Docking Adaptor 2. The 1st docking adopter is currently in use by Japanese JAXA HTV 1 spacecraft. The docking was successful with textbook precision, with all parameters normal and timing of the docking matching the exact theoretical timeline predicted prior to the mission. The spacecraft arrived at 10:16 AM Eastern time at the International space station, almost 19 hours after yesterday’s successful launch.

Here is a beautiful gallery for you to enjoy, capturing the most crucial moments of the entire docking experience.

“We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX”, said Hurley as soon as the docking process was complete and the astronauts waited for their arrival into the space station. “Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible can not go overstated”. It would take almost a couple of hours for the astronauts to actually get inside the space station.

While most of the docking went ahead smoothly, there was a slight issue post the soft capture of the capsule. A sliver of space was left between the docking station and the capsule, resulting in vacuum being captured. The chamber was then depressurized using a depressurizing valve and things went ahead as expected.

In terms of scientific achievements, the entire mission is the final piece of testing that SpaceX has to go through, post which the Crew dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket will be certified for regular operational use by NASA. SpaceX, like most its missions off late, also successfully recovered the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket for re-usability purposes. The company beat Boeing — another company contracted by NASA for the program — by a fairly large margin to achieve the feat.

SpaceX and NASA teams will now review all the data for certification. Once reviewed, NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi have been assigned to fly on Dragon’s first six-month operational mission (Crew-1) targeted for later this year.