SpaceX’s astronaut-ferrying Crew Dragon spacecraft is now docked to the International Space Station in Earth’s orbit, marking the successful completion of the first phase of its inaugural operational mission. Dragon was certified for human spaceflight earlier this month by NASA after having completed the development and testing program with a successful human demonstration flight earlier in 2020.
Dragon lifted off from Florida on Sunday evening, carrying four astronauts, including NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi. The spacecraft then spent a little over a day on orbit, moving into position to meet the Space Station and prepare for docking. It completed that late on Monday night, acting completely autonomously using SpaceX’s automated docking software to connect to the Space Station’s new international docking adapter, and then the hatch was opened by the existing ISS crew and the newly arrived team members made their way over.
The successful docking and hatch opening means that SpaceX and NASA have achieved their goals so far with the Commercial Crew program: Creating a viable and effective means of launching people from the U.S. to space, and to the ISS. This mission’s astronauts will now spend the next six months at the Space Station, with Dragon attached, and then they’ll return likely next June in the second and final phase of this inaugural mission, which will prove that the system also works for coming back to Earth.