Daily US Times: US astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have docked with the International Space Station (ISS). It is a big moment for SpaceX, Nasa and the US. This is the first time a private company rocket delivered astronauts to the ISS. This is considered the new beginning of human space flight.
Their Dragon capsule – supplied and operated by the private SpaceX company – edged them into port on the high-flying lab’s bow section.
The astronauts launched from Florida on Saturday.
It was the first time since the retirement of the shuttles nine years ago that the US space agency has sent up astronauts from home soil.
It marks the beginning of a new era in which Nasa will be purchasing transport services from the private commercial sector. No more will it own and operate the vehicles that run to and from the station.
This will be done, as in this case, by firms like California’s SpaceX outfit, which is led by Elon Musk.
Confirmation of the Dragon’s attachment at the International Space Station came at 14:16 GMT (15:16 BST), slightly ahead of schedule, 422km (262 miles) above the border between northern China and Mongolia.
The flight was fully automated process; Hurley and Behnken had no need to get involved. Thought they had practiced some manual flying on approach.
Last year, SpaceX flew a first demonstration of its new crew vehicle, but that had only a dummy aboard.
This mission capsule is the first to carry humans.
The two astronaut’s job on the mission is to test all onboard systems and to give their feedback to engineers.
SpaceX and Nasa want to move swiftly to the next phase of the $2.6bn contract which will see six crew taxi flights, with the first to occur at the end of August.
Nasa has not confirmed yet how long the astronauts will spend at the space station, somewhere between one and four months. While they are there, the Dragon test pilots will join the one US and two Russian station residents in performing experiments and possibly spacewalks to install fresh station batteries.