Watch SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon launch to the ISS live right here

03 March, 2019, 12:39 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • The Dragon crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Following a successful launch early Saturday morning, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is set to rendezvous and dock to the International Space Station for the first time.

This handout photo released by NASA shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission on March 1, 2019 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. He marvels at how the Dragon has just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit's 2,000 switches and circuit breakers. Thermal vacuum testing conducted past year revealed less than nominal performance within the full thermal environment the Draco thrusters were expected to experience during the Demo-1 mission.

SpaceX is making history by starting a new era in American space exploration.

Agency officials still check off every step, but the approach is regarded as faster, more efficient and less costly. That's cool. That's exactly what we want to do.

To do that, the capsule is fitted with life-support systems, a fourth parachute (instead of the usual three) and more powerful thrusters to help control the vessel, should anything go wrong.

How should this mission play out?

While the Dragon spacecraft launched successfully Saturday, the mission still has several significant hurdles to clear.

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One of the big differences between this mission and standard cargo flights is the mode of approach and attachment to the ISS. Freighters come up under the orbiting lab and are grappled by a robotic arm and pulled into a berthing position. After opening its nose cone for navigational purposes, Dragon is now spending about 24 hours performing a series of phasing maneuvers to bring it toward the International Space Station, where it will dock at around 6am ET Sunday.

Astronauts aboard the ISS will be watching closely on HD cameras to make sure the capsule performs as it should, and be ready to intervene if it does not.

After docking to the station, Dragon's hatch will be opened, and the station crew will board the spacecraft to perform inspections.

The cost savings Bridenstine mentioned are very real. "This vehicle coming up to the ISS for the first time has to work".

The unmanned launch is the first stage of the Demo-1 mission, created to test the capabilities of the capsule over the next week, as it heads toward the International Space Station. That capsule called the CST-100 Starliner is set to launch in April without a crew and again with a crew in August.

The objective is to make the next demo flight, with Hurley and Behnken, as safe as possible.

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