SpaceX docks with ISS with 2 US astronauts
Just under 19 hours after launching from Florida, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, marking the first US space capsule to do so with a crew since 2011.
The launch on Saturday by SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, represented another milestone for the reusable rockets it pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and more frequent.
It also marked the first time that commercially developed space vehicles — owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA — have carried Americans into orbit.
Just before liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22pm, Hurley said: “SpaceX, we’re go for launch. Let’s light this candle,” paraphrasing the famous comment uttered on the launch pad in 1961 by Alan Shepard, the first American flown into space. Minutes after launch, the first-stage booster rocket of the Falcon 9 separated from the upper second-stage rocket and flew itself back to Earth to descend safely onto a landing platform floating in the Atlantic.
High above the Earth, the Crew Dragon jettisoned moments later from the second-stage rocket, sending the capsule on its way to the space station.
The Falcon 9 took off from the same launch pad used by NASA’s final space shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011. Since then, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
“It’s incredible, the power, the technology,” said US President Donald Trump, who was at Kennedy Space Center for the launch.
“That was a beautiful sight to see.”
The mission’s first launch attempt on Wednesday was called off with less than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock. Weather again threatened on Saturday, but cleared in time to proceed with the mission.
In keeping with Musk’s penchant for futuristic flash, the astronauts wore angular white uniforms with black trim. Instead of the usual multitude of dials, knobs and switches, the Dragon capsule has three large touchscreens.
Once settled in orbit, Hurley disclosed that in keeping with the tradition of having astronauts name their spacecraft, he and Behnken had named the Crew Dragon capsule “Endeavour” after the retired space shuttle on which they both flew.