Launched Tuesday morning aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, at 9:56am EDT this morning the privately owned spacecraft Dragon finished its approach to the International Space Station as NASA astronaut Don Pettit grappled it with the station’s robotic arm. By 12:02 pm berthing was complete and Dragon became the first ever private spacecraft to dock with the ISS.
Right now the Dragon is bolted to the station’s Harmony node and NASA confirms that later today the ISS crew will open the doors in order to enter the unmanned, SpaceX owned, capsule.
No privately owned spacecraft has ever flown this high before. SpaceX is only one of several groups competing to lead privateer fleets into space, but right now the Elon Musk owned company seems to be far ahead of any competitor. They did it first.
Here’s video of Dragon making its final approach to berth with the ISS…
Since this is an unmanned test run the Dragon capsule contains mostly non-critical items. It’s stocked with experiments put together by high school kids along with food, clothing, and technology for the International Space Station’s residents. It also houses the ashes of deceased Star Trek actor James Doohan, on his way to a final resting place among the stars.
Dragon will remain at the International Space Station only a few days. It’s scheduled to be detached from the ISS on May 31st after which it will orbit the planet for four hours before beginning a 30-minute re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon will then splash down in the Pacific Ocean, 250 miles of the coast of California, for retrieval by the SpaceX team.