The Crew Dragon used the station's new worldwide docking adapter for the first time since astronauts installed it during a spacewalk in August 2016, following its delivery to the station in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on its ninth commercial resupply services mission. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.
"It should be fine, but that'll be a thing to make sure it works on re-entry", Musk said, according to the BBC. The gumdrop-shaped craft also contained about 400 pounds of supplies and equipment. The Crew Dragon will remain docked to the ISS for up to 210 days, though no word has yet been given on what is planned for it afterward.
"Everything looks great", USA astronaut Anne McClain, who oversaw events from the station's big bay window, or Cupola.told Mission Control after looking inside Crew Dragon through a hatch window just before the crew entered.
Dragon 2, on the other hand, will not utilize the robotic arm, but rather use the onboard Draco thrusters to dock with the station.
For its part, Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, congratulated NASA on the successful Crew Dragon docking.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon, as its name implies, is created to carry human crew along with around 220 lbs of cargo.
To address such concerns, the space station's three crew members were put on standby to retreat into their Soyuz lifeboat if necessary.
This view from a camera inside the Crew Dragon capsule shows what astronauts will see during approach to the space station. The crew pressurized the vestibule between the station and the spacecraft, performed leak checks, and opened Dragon's hatch at 8:07 EST, entering in oxygen masks to protect themselves in case any toxic gases leaked from the spacecraft's propellant system. A recovery team will be dispatched to pick up the capsule and check out how Ripley fared.
That mission is now scheduled for launch no earlier than July, with both NASA and SpaceX expecting it will launch before the end of the year.
More than 200 miles above the Earth, McClain and her crew mates offered a slightly different message. Boeing is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August. Space travel is still a costly endeavor, but these capsules were developed in partnership with NASA and the price of a seat is about $30 million cheaper.
"Today's successful launch marks a new chapter in American excellence, getting us closer to once again flying American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine wrote in a statement.