A SpaceX Crew Dragon with four astronauts docked at the International Space Station on Monday, the first of what the United States hopes will be many routine missions.
“Soft capture” – the first part of the docking process – was completed at 23:01 (0401 GMT Tuesday), with the second part of the procedure set to take place a few minutes later.
After launching at 19.27 Eastern Time on Sunday (0027 GMT on Monday) aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, three American astronauts and a Japanese astronaut woke up at twelve (1700 GMT) on Monday from their planned eight hours of sleep in orbit to the 80’s hit “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.
“We hope you enjoyed your first night aboard the Dragon,” SpaceX Air Force Controller Jay Aranha told Crew Dragon Commander Mike Hopkins, speaking on a line from the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
“It was a very pleasant night aboard resilience,” Hopkins replied from the capsule, traveling in orbit at about 28,500 miles per hour.
The gum drop-shaped space capsule, which the astronauts called Resilience in a nod to the coronavirus pandemic, was scheduled to dock at 11 pm Monday (0400 GMT on Tuesday) at the space station, an orbital laboratory about 400 km above Earth where another American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts awaited their arrival. .
The Resilience crew includes Hopkins, an Air Force commander, and two astronauts from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: mission pilot Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker. They are joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who is making his third trip to space after previously flying the American shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.
Prior to NASA’s space certification last week, SpaceX’s dragon had been under development for about a decade during a public-private NASA program launched in 2011 to revive the agency’s human spaceflight function.
Sunday night’s launch marked SpaceX’s first operational mission for NASA during that program, after the rocket company launched and returned a first test crew with two American astronauts to space last summer.
(France 24 with AFP and REUTERS)