Space X’s capsule Crew Dragon just docked at the International Space Station completing the most important part of a historic space mission, the first time a commercial company takes astronauts into space.
You already know that NASA, under the administration of new director Jim Bridenstine, made it a priority to add private investment to space exploration in a new Commercial Crew program. The decision was the result of the budget cut imposed by the US government on the agency and the cancellation of the ferry project. In this way, commercial companies like Space X are becoming a fundamental part of the future of space exploration.
Crew Dragon is a priority component since it is the ship that must reach astronauts into space, in the future to Mars. The “Mission Demo-2” is the final step for Space X to obtain the NASA final certification to transport humans and we can already consider it successful.
Not without setbacks. The launch scheduled for last Thursday was suspended due to adverse weather conditions and rescheduled for yesterday Saturday. At a side event, the prototype Starship rocket that Space X was testing at its Texas facility exploded on Friday. This is a new generation of boosters that the company is developing for lunar and Martian missions. It is not related to the “Mission Demo-2”, but it did not bode well.
Crew Dragon docks on the ISS
Fortunately, the Falcon 9 rocket took off on Saturday with no mishaps from platform 39A of the Kennedy Space Center. A mythical platform since it was used to send Apollo 11 astronauts on their way to the Moon and it also hosted the last space shuttle flight in 2011.
Within thirteen minutes of takeoff, the Crew Dragon capsule with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board ignited its eight Super Draco engines, separated from the rocket, and headed for the Space Station at a top speed of 27,000 km / h. The Falcon 9 rocket was recovered in the Atlantic Ocean as planned.
19 hours later, the Crew Dragon has docked on the ISS completing the main part of the mission, validating the ship as a human transport system, and not without conducting manual control tests. The spacecraft is designed to fly and dock fully autonomously, but another part of the mission is to ensure that the manual controls work as designed in case astronauts need to use them in an emergency.
Docking confirmed – Crew Dragon has arrived at the @space_station! pic.twitter.com/KiKBpZ8R2H
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 31, 2020
Astronauts will remain on the ISS for between six and sixteen weeks conducting various scientific tests. Returning to Earth will be another important moment, but the first phase of the mission has been successfully passed. Recall that Space X already successfully docked the spacecraft to the ISS last year, but on an unmanned mission.
Hereinafter a new era opens in space exploration, with the help of private initiative. Starting August 30, several more releases are planned this year.