A SpaceX test Dragon capsule with a dummy aboard was able to dock with the International Space Station safely. The event, which took place on Sunday is a significant milestone on the road towards future astronaut launches.
SpaceX has signed a contract with NASA to develop the Dragon capsule. The capsule is the first American spacecraft which can carry a crew that has been designed in almost a decade. If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX should be able to fly two NASA astronauts to space later in the summer. The autonomous spacecraft orbited above the Pacific Ocean and managed to link with the station by using a robotic arm. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine acknowledged the moment via a post on the popular Twitter platform.
NASA decided to retire the space shuttle program back in 2011, and American astronauts are tied to the schedule of the Russian Soyuz launches. Each seat has to be reserved in advance, and the cost is quite high. To mitigate the costs, NASA opted to contract SpaceX and Boeing. The two companies are developing the next generation of rockets, with several tests being currently underway.
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Docked Successfully To The ISS
The SpaceX Dragon capsule launched from the NASA-operated Kennedy Center aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A test dummy fitted with several instruments occupied one of the four seats. SpaceX named the dummy Replay, a reference to the famous protagonist of the Alien movie franchise.
Both the mannequin and the capsule were loaded with a series of sensors which measure noise, vibration and the stress among several other relevant data which play an essential role during the launch and flight towards the International Space Station.
As the Dragon capsule approached the ISS its nose cap, which is shaped in the form of a dragon maw, began to open to release the docking mechanism. During a crewed flight at the process would also be deployed automatically, but the astronauts will be able to activate or change specific steps of the process. The SpaceX Dragon capsule will return to Earth on Friday.