The crew of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket departs from the launch pad at Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
The SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying four astronauts docked with the International Space Station on Monday, the first of what NASA hopes will be many routine missions ending US reliance on Russian rockets.
Four astronauts rode a newly designed spacecraft from Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the first crewed mission on a privately built space capsule purchased by NASA.
"Dragon SpaceX, soft capture confirmed," said an announcer as the capsule completed its 27.5-hour journey at 11:01 pm (0401 GMT Tuesday), with the second part of the procedure, "hard capture," occurring a few minutes later.
The space station, an orbital laboratory about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, will be their home for the next six months. After that, another set of astronauts on a Crew Dragon capsule will replace them. That rotation will continue until Boeing joins the programme with its own spacecraft late next year.
The spacecraft, named "Resilience," docked autonomously with the space station some 260 miles (400 kilometres) above the Midwestern US state of Ohio.
The Resilience crew includes Crew Dragon commander Mike Hopkins and two fellow NASA astronauts: mission pilot Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker. They are joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, making his third trip to space after previously flying on the US shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.
Another US astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts are aboard the space station from a previous mission.
“Welcome to the ISS. We can’t wait to have you onboard,” said Kate Rubins, a US astronaut already on the space station.
Before receiving its flight certification from NASA last week, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon had been under development for roughly a decade under a public-private NASA programme started in 2011 to revive the agency’s human spaceflight capability.
Sunday night’s launch marked SpaceX’s first operational mission for NASA under that programme, after a test flight last summer with a crew of two US astronauts.
Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX's newly designed Crew Dragon capsule, which the crew of three Americans — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker — and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi blasted off at 7:27pm (0027 GMT Monday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The successful splashdown was a final key test of whether Elon Musk's spacecraft can transport astronauts to and from orbit — a feat no private company has accomplished before.
A Falcon rocket raced into the pre-dawn darkness, carrying a Dragon capsule with 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of goods. This recycled Dragon — which is making its second space trip — is due to arrive at the orbiting lab on Monday.
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