Crew from aborted Soyuz capsule set for ISS mission next week

Olive Hawkins
March 7, 2019

SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered and applauded as crew Dragon pulled up and docked at the orbiting lab, almost 260 miles (400 kilometres) above the Pacific, north of New Zealand. NASA and SpaceX are working together in the hopes of launching humans in the new craft later this year. A test dummy fitted with several instruments occupied one of the four seats.

The version of Crew Dragon now docked at the ISS is a variant of SpaceX's robotic Dragon cargo capsule that's been flying resupply missions to the ISS since 2012.

It will spend five days docked to the orbiting outpost, before making a retro-style splashdown in the Atlantic next Friday - all vital training for the next space demo, possibly this summer, when two astronauts strap in. Astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets ever since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011. Soyuz tickets have skyrocketed over the years; NASA now pays $82 million per seat. Boeing has similar uncrewed and crewed test flights planned for April and August, respectively, for their own certification tests. It used its computers and sensors to guide itself to the station. The other seats were empty, save for a small plush toy resembling Earth that was free to float upon reaching zero-gravity.

A new experimental type of deep space communications technology is scheduled to be demonstrated on the International Space Station this spring.

"Our focus has been on serving Nasa's needs, but once Dragon is in regular operation, I think we will seek commercial customers of which NASA administrator, and NASA in general, has been very supportive".

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Reuters reported on February 21 that SpaceX and Boeing both must address significant design and safety concerns before they can fly humans.

From blast-off at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday to contact Sunday, the flight took 27 hours.

The objective is to make the next demo flight, with Hurley and Behnken, as safe as possible. "What today really represents is a new era in spaceflight". The crew also installed window covers and checked vales inside the capsule before the official welcoming ceremony.

Musk anticipates eventually selling Dragon rides to private citizens, much as the Russians have done, first to the space station and then perhaps beyond.

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