Crew Dragon docks with ISS

LIFT OFF California's SpaceX firm has carried out a demonstration of a new rocket

There was a chance that the Crew Dragon, which Russian space operators warned did not have a backup docking system, would fail to successfully attach to the station. More than just its first unmanned test flight, the Crew Dragon Demo-1 also made a historic first automated docking with the International Space Station.

If the programme continues to go to plan, SpaceX and NASA plan to send humans back into space from the USA later this year.

The docking was carried out autonomously by the Crew Dragon capsule, as the three astronauts on board the International Space Station watched.

The spacecraft is created to carry up to seven passengers to the space station, but for this flight, the capsule is loaded up with 450 pounds of cargo and a test dummy outfitted in one of SpaceX's customised spacesuits. If that final phase of the test goes well, NASA astronauts could be heading into space aboard non-NASA rockets as soon as summer 2019. The spacecraft encountered no serious issues as it approached the station, executing a series of maneuvers including one where, at a distance of 150 meters from the station, it halted its approach and retreated to 180 meters to test the ability to back away from the station in the event of a problem.

The docking of the capsule, which has only a dummy on board, was concluded at 1051 GMT, almost 250 miles (400 kilometers) over the surface of the Earth, NASA and SpaceX confirmed during a live broadcast of the mission.

In SpaceX's case, NASA has agreed to pay $2.6 billion for six round trips to the ISS.

Just two hours after the Dragon's grand entrance, the station crew entered to take air samples.

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"We're on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011", said Bridenstine, who got a special tour of the launch pad on the eve of launch, by Musk.

Spectacular video from the station showed the sleek capsule, its nose cone hinged open to reveal its docking mechanism, moving in slowly against the deep black of space.

The capsule's lone passenger for launch - a mannequin wearing a white SpaceX spacesuit - remained strapped into its seat as the station's U.S., Canadian and Russian crew removed supplies and photographed the spotless white interior.

Furthermore, the crew variant of Dragon 2 is one of two spacecraft that will return domestic crew launch capability to the United States, the other being Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.

SpaceX aims to launch Behnken and Hurley as early as July. It will return to Earth with a conventional re-entry and parachute recovery in the Atlantic Friday morning. "NASA now pays $82 million per seat".

A concern over Dragon's docking abort procedures was raised by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, one of NASA's worldwide partners in the ISS program.

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