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SpaceX’s new crew capsule aces space station docking

07 Марта 2019

America's newest capsule for astronauts rocketed Saturday toward the International Space Station on a high-stakes test flight by SpaceX.

In a historic moment of Elon Musk's SpaceX, the company's Crew Dragon craft successfully docked at the International Space Station on Sunday.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon (and Boeing's similar Starliner capsule) present an alternative, having been developed under NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

The Crew Dragon is a fully autonomous aircraft that can be controlled both by the onboard crew as well as SpaceX's mission control in California.

It just first disconnect and undock from the space station, re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, and lastly, splash back down off the Florida coast.

SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, has made the trip to the ISS a dozen times since 2012, but only to refuel the station. The capsule will remain at the ISS for another five days.

The dummy pilot is a mannequin nicknamed "Ripley" after Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien films.

The nosecone of Dragon opened to reveal the docking port and forward-facing Draco thrusters, and the first of a series of burns to gradually match the ISS's orbit was completed.

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NASA's associate administrator for human exploration Bill Gerstenmaier said using a private company for astronaut launches would not compromise on standards.

McClaine: "On behalf of Ripley, little Earth and myself, welcome to the Crew Dragon".

Aboard the space station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko opened the hatch between the Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 8:07 a.m. EST.

Dragon first stabilized seven kilometers behind the ISS, and 2.5 kilometers below it. After reaching the 400-meter point, Dragon was set to move in front of the station, 150 meters away - before automatically docking at 1100 GMT.

It will also be the first time that a fully owned and operated commercial enterprise has ferried United States astronauts into space.

Ripley and the capsule are rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses and monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.

"We're going to learn a ton from this mission", said Kathy Lueders, the manager of Nasa's Commercial Crew programme.

Despite SpaceX's success at recovering and reusing its rockets, NASA is insisting on brand new boosters from SpaceX for the crew capsule flights. If that final phase of the test goes well, NASA astronauts could be heading into space aboard non-NASA rockets as soon as summer 2019. They anxious that if the uncrewed vehicle's computer malfunctioned, the Dragon might have crashed into the station - much as a Russian Progress cargo craft crashed into the Mir space station in 1997.

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SpaceX’s new crew capsule aces space station docking