SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch and ISS Docking in Pictures

Olive Hawkins
March 7, 2019

The spacecraft also docked with the International Space Station and, for the first time ever, astronauts got a chance to explore it in space.

The white Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station almost 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean and, flying autonomously, linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm normally used to guide spacecraft into position.

Dragon's arrival marked the first time in eight years that an American-made spacecraft capable of carrying humans has flown to the space station.

SpaceX launched the Crew Dragon using a 230-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket on March 2 at 2:49 a.m. ET.

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

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine: "What today really represents is a new era in spaceflight - an era where we are looking forward to being one customer as an agency and as a country, in a robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit".

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The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station.

The launch systems are aimed at ending USA reliance on Russian rockets for rides to the $100 billion orbital research laboratory, which flies about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, at about $80 million per ticket.

Colonel Chris Hadfield - first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station and Author of the book, 'An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth'.

Several lasers and software helped dragon capsule to scan docking adapter, and it attached itself.

At the same time, the astronauts now on board the ISS kept a close watch to make sure the Crew Dragon performed as expected - U.S astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jaques were the ones in charge of commanding the Crew Dragon to hold, retreat to abort the mission altogether, if anything went wrong. On March 8 it will separate again and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean.

"It was super exciting to see it", astronaut Bob Behnken, told the BBC. Boeing has similar uncrewed and crewed test flights planned for April and August, respectively, for their own certification tests. The version designed for humans is slightly bigger and safer. It was in 2011 when NASA lost such ability after it retired its space shuttle fleet.

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