Capsule docks at International Space Station

Capsule docks at International Space Station

Those words at 6.02am (10.02pm AEDT) on Sunday confirmed that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule had successfully attached itself to the International Space Station, about 27 hours after lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

The capsule will likely remain docked with the station for five days. On March 8, it will undock and re-enter the earth’s atmosphere, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean around 8.45am (12.45am AEDT).

Earlier, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule — launched on a test mission for NASA — was approaching the International Space Station, where it was set to dock for the first time.

Dragon gradually climbed in altitude toward the ISS, which is orbiting the earth at around 400 kilometres altitude and at a speed of 28,000 kilometres per hour — orbiting the earth in 90 minutes.

The capsule has made two orbits since its launch on Saturday from the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

On board the ISS, the crew — American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques — were scheduled to carry out a welcoming ceremony.

This time around, the only occupant on board the Dragon capsule was a dummy named Ripley — but NASA plans to put two astronauts aboard in July, although that date could be delayed.

Dragon first stabilised seven kilometres behind the ISS, and 2.5 kilometres below it. Then, the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, gave the green light for the first phase of the approach which ends 400 metres from the ISS. Around 8pm AEDT, Dragon was 3000 metres away, NASA said.

Ships bound for the ISS approach via several “way points,” imaginary gates of sorts. After reaching the 400-metre point, Dragon was set to move in front of the station, 150 metres away — before automatically docking at 10pm AEDT.

The launch is a key step towards resuming manned space flights from US soil after an eight-year break.

After the shuttle program was shut down in July 2011 following a 30-year run, NASA began outsourcing the logistics of its space missions.

It pays Russia to get its people up to the ISS orbiting research facility at a cost of $US82 million per head for a round trip.

In 2014, the US space agency awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.

Source link