Milestone: Capsule with dummy aboard docks at space station (Update)

US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
In this photo provided by SpaceX, the SpaceX team in Hawthorne, Calif., watches as the SpaceX Crew Dragon docks with the International Space Station's Harmony module, Sunday, March 3, 2019. SpaceX's new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day. (NASA via AP)

A sleek new American-built capsule with just a test dummy aboard docked smoothly with the International Space Station on Sunday, bringing the U.S. a big step closer to getting back in the business of launching astronauts.

The white, bullet-shaped Dragon capsule, developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX company under contract to NASA, closed in on the orbiting station nearly 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.

If this six-day test flight goes well, a Dragon capsule could take two NASA astronauts to the orbiting outpost this summer.

"A new generation of space flight starts now with the arrival of @SpaceX's Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. "Congratulations to all for this historic achievement getting us closer to flying American Astronauts on American rockets."

Ever since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been hitching rides to and from the space station aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In the meantime, NASA is paying two companies—SpaceX and Boeing—to build and operate America's next generation of rocket ships.

US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured about 20 meters (66 feet) away from the International Space Station's Harmony module, Sunday, March 3, 2019. SpaceX's new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day. (NASA via AP)

SpaceX's 27-foot-long (8-meter-long) capsule rocketed into orbit early Saturday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center with a mannequin strapped into one of its four seats in a dashing, white-and-black, form-fitting SpaceX spacesuit. The test dummy was nicknamed Ripley after the main character in the "Alien" movies.

Ripley and the capsule are rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses and monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems.

As the capsule closed in on the space station, its nose cap was wide open like a dragon's mouth to expose the docking mechanism. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.

The three U.S., Canadian and Russian crew members aboard the space station watched the rendezvous via TV cameras. Within hours, the capsule's hatch swung open and the three astronauts floated inside to remove supplies and take air samples, wearing oxygen masks and hoods until they got the all-clear.

US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
In this image taken from NASA Television, Sunday, March 3, 2019. SpaceX's new crew capsule approaches just before docking at the International Space Station Sunday, March 3, 2019. SpaceX's new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station, acing its second milestone in just over a day. No one was aboard the Dragon capsule launched Saturday on its first test flight, only an instrumented dummy. (NASA TV via AP)

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques pronounced the docking flawless and called it "a beautiful thing to see."

"Welcome to the new era in spaceflight," he said.

Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it will undock for an old-school, "Right Stuff"-style splashdown in the Atlantic, a few hundred miles off Florida.

As part of Sunday's shakedown, the space station astronauts sent commands for Dragon to retreat and then move forward again, before the capsule closed in for good. SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered the docking, then burst into applause again when the Dragon's latches were secured.

US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a demo Crew Dragon spacecraft lifts off from pad 39A on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, March 2, 2019. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)

The two astronauts set to fly aboard Dragon as early as July, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, witnessed the Florida liftoff, then rushed to Southern California to watch Sunday's maneuver.

"Just super excited to see it," Behnken said minutes after the linkup. "Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here."

Next up, though, is Boeing, which is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.

US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
In this image taken from NASA Television, Sunday, March 3, 2019, a live screen shows docking scene of SpaceX's new crew capsule and the International Space Station Sunday, March 3, 2019. SpaceX's new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station, acing its second milestone in just over a day. No one was aboard the Dragon capsule launched Saturday on its first test flight, only an instrumented dummy. (NASA TV via AP)

SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons. The version designed for humans is slightly bigger and safer.

It can carry as many as seven people and has three windows, emergency-abort engines that can pull the capsule to safety, and streamlined controls, with just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit's 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.

US-built capsule with a dummy aboard docks at space station
This photo provided by SpaceX shows a life-size test dummy along with a toy that is floating in the Dragon capsule as the capsule made orbit on Saturday, March 2, 2019. America's newest capsule for astronauts rocketed toward the International Space Station on a high-stakes test flight by SpaceX. This latest, flashiest Dragon is on a fast track to reach the space station Sunday morning, just 27 hours after liftoff. (SpaceX via AP)

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Mar 03, 2019
Looks like Elon is now "Mr. Gitterdun…"

Mar 03, 2019
Musk's contributions were acknowledged twice by Star Trek: Discovery and both my brain and my gut tell me this is going to be another one of those things on the long list that Star Trek was right about.

Mar 03, 2019
Ah jeebus Mark! Does that mean we're going to have to put up with those sanctimoniously pettifogging Vulcans?
At least with the Klingons,
a man could enjoy a good quaff of ale before the chairs start flying!

Mar 03, 2019
I sincerely hope the first space-traveling aliens we encounter are as benign as the Vulcans, even with their "sanctimoniously pettifogging," whatever that is. Interestingly, our interactions with the Klingons ultimately led to good things. It is the Borg I would worry about. :-)

Mar 03, 2019
Looks like Elon is now "Mr. Gitterdun…"

I would say, his brilliant, young(ish) team, is better deserving of that designation. The word "impossible" appears to not be, in their vocabulary. Even Musk was astonished when the Falcon Heavy made it. It's quite probable that his pessimism motivates them to such spectacular success, so kudos to him in that regard.

Mar 03, 2019
"NASA astronaut Anne McClain inside the Crew Dragon's cabin Sunday, joined by the instrumented test dummy "Ripley" and the plush toy Earth that rode to the space station inside SpaceX's new capsule."

-Plush toy = big bucks on ebay. Donate for some secular charity-

Mar 03, 2019
I would say, his brilliant, young(ish) team, is better deserving of that designation.


You took your obligatory shot at Elon Musk, as your masters require, but the rest of your comment is almost reasonable. New tactics?

Unlike the usual situation in life where there is plenty of blame to go around, with regard to SpaceX, there is plenty of credit to go around. To be honest, even I had a little doubt about recoverable first stage rockets until SpaceX proved to everyone it could be done. It is a stunning achievement. Musk is brilliant and so are his engineers. When you look at what they routinely do, it is simply amazing. It also blows me away that the most powerful rocket in the world today is not the work of some determined superpower trying to establish dominance, but the result of a visionary company with a visionary leader trying to give us a better future.

Mar 03, 2019
Well, looks like we're back in business. Good tidings for America.

Mar 03, 2019
Looks like Elon is now "Mr. Gitterdun…"

I would say, his brilliant, young(ish) team, is better deserving of that designation. The word "impossible" appears to not be, in their vocabulary. Even Musk was astonished when the Falcon Heavy made it. It's quite probable that his pessimism motivates them to such spectacular success, so kudos to him in that regard.

Who put that team together...?

Mar 03, 2019

Who put that team together...?

My money would be on her -- https://www.crunc...overview

Mar 04, 2019
Well, it's not ideal, but it's better than going to the Russians, hat-in-hand to get flown to that orbiting pile of junk the ISS.

Mar 04, 2019
Well, it's not ideal, but it's better than going to the Russians, hat-in-hand to get flown to that orbiting pile of junk the ISS.
says Thor

The Russians were paid handsomely for the privilege of taking our men and women up to the ISS. But it was time to take matters well in hand, and it was Elon Musk and his company that saved the day, as they say. It isn't junk - don't refer to it as "junk". It has given so much experience and information about LEO that would not have been known otherwise. And it has drawn nations closer together, as humans of various races and ethnicities have taken part in it and learned about each other's cultures and so on. I hope that it continues on for a long time.

Mar 04, 2019
More room to pack equipment in the new Dragon. As long as Musk does not sell it to China. You know......"Dwagon" Since it is 'private industry', he COULD! He could even sell it to North Korea for a song and a few trips to an NK mahssaage paahrlorr. stocked with Un's personal 'livestock'. One of the hazards of letting private industry handle critical defense equipment. But then our aircraft are mostly manufactured by private industry in California and Washington and no problems.

Mar 04, 2019
ISS is an wonderful accomplishment, but I think it could be more fully utilized. ISS could be our first spaceport for interplanetary spacecraft, especially for those traveling between low Earth orbit and low Mars orbit, but also for anything traveling between LEO and the Moon or various asteroids. Such spacecraft could be refurbished, refueled, restocked and re-crewed every 26 months for the next Mars voyage. Docking with the spaceport would give us the option to work on an interplanetary spacecraft sporadically over many months or 24/7 with rotating crews in a way that would be impracticable to duplicate if everything was launched from the ground directly to the spacecraft. We have large airports and sea ports on Earth for very good reasons, a spaceport would serve an analogous function. The designers of the ISS knew this from the very beginning.

Mar 04, 2019
I would add that the ISS makes a dandy way station. Say we one day make a good earth to orbit craft that takes off like a jet, like the Skylon when it is done. Then we can transport people and some goods cheaper using Skylons than with huge heavy lift rockets that should be saved for the big jobs. Then we can have another system that would to an even cheaper orbital transfer to a high orbiting permanent space station a la Werner von Braun's original vision, a huge wheel that serves as a spaceport, a dock, a barracks/hotel and auxilliary craft to a companion high orbiting shipyard to make truly interplanetary working craft to mine, explore, make outposts, etc.
Best use of the ISS is a waystation, but it still has work to do, and many nations made it so not up to one noncomformist like some here in USA to try to 'bring it down'. Wisely the Russians and the British are not going along with that silliness.

Mar 04, 2019
British are already working on this...look up Skylon on WikiPedia. Unless it is a black project, I doubt that we are....see previous comment. I push space stations all the time on many scientific sites. I stress the NEED to go to space. Steven Hawking when he was alive stressed this all the time in his later years.

Mar 04, 2019
ISS is an wonderful accomplishment, but I think it could be more fully utilized. ISS could be our first spaceport for interplanetary spacecraft, especially for those traveling between low Earth orbit and low Mars orbit, but also for anything traveling between LEO and the Moon or various asteroids. Such spacecraft could be refurbished, refueled, restocked and re-crewed every 26 months for the next Mars voyage. Docking with the spaceport would give us the option to work on an interplanetary spacecraft sporadically over many months or 24/7 with rotating crews in a way that would be impracticable to duplicate if everything was launched from the ground directly to the spacecraft. We have large airports and sea ports on Earth for very good reasons, a spaceport would serve an analogous function. The designers of the ISS knew this from the very beginning.

Actually, Mark, I'm surprised it wasn't configured for this from the beginning...

Mar 04, 2019

Who put that team together...?

My money would be on her -- https://www.crunc...overview

And who hired HER, AG?

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