When a Dragon mated the space station

By Phil Plait | May 25, 2012 10:08 am

At 16:02 UTC, Friday, May 25, 2012, the SpaceX Dragon officially became the first privately-owned commercial spacecraft to be captured by and berthed at the International Space Station. It is (if I’ve done the math correctly) the 114th spacecraft to dock with ISS, including the missions sent up to build the station. It is the first privately-owned commercial spacecraft in history to do so.

You can read more about this in my last post, which also has a few pictures from the approach and capture.

Congratulations to NASA and the team at SpaceX! Fantastic.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Space
MORE ABOUT: Dragon capsule, ISS, SpaceX

Comments (19)

  1. Carey

    Now Thierry Legault just needs to get a picture of the ISS+Dragon in front of the Sun.

  2. Satan Claws

    This whole mission has been setting a whole slew of “firsts”. AWESOME!

    @Carey (1): Agree.

  3. Mark

    I think there are an awful lot of people who are an awful lot happier than we are right now. And to them, I say, well done. You have earned the right to flip out and walk on clouds for the next week or so. Just don’t forget to get your nose back to the grind-stone and make this a repeat! I want to see these things painted taxi-cab yellow before I’m too old and frail to enjoy the trip!

  4. Yea! Private-enterprise spacecraft and international government project, makin’ sweet, sweet love in orbit.

  5. Tara Li

    It’s been a hell of a month – one month ago, Planetary Resources announced their start – and now this. This – *THIS* – is the real hope & change.

  6. Paul

    What’s up with the net today? Everyone has become a berther!

  7. OtherRob
  8. XMark

    I’m hoping that this will stir up a whole bunch of private companies’ interest in space exploration. Imagine several big corporations competing against each other to provide affordable rocket launches! I think that would get the development of space travel technology rolling again.

  9. David H

    Do the other vehicles (and, for that matter, the Shuttle when it was flying) first get grabbed by the Canadarm first? Not sure why, but I always thought most docked directly.

  10. ellindsey

    David – most do. The Shuttle, Soyuz, Progress, and the ATV all have docking ports. Docking ports contain guide cones, capture latches, shock absorbers, and everything else needed for one spaceship to fly up and dock to another. The Dragon capsule (and the Japanese HTV) have Berthing ports, which essentially only have the hard capture latches. Those require the station arm to grab the vehicle and hold it in place while the latches are engaged. The advantage of the berthing ports is the ability to pass much larger pieces of equipment through. Shuttle and Soyuz docking ports are barely large enough for a single person to squeeze through, and there are a lot of pieces of equipment in the station that won’t fit through a docking port.

  11. Grand Lunar

    Three cheers for SpaceX!

    Glad to see that this has been accomplished.

    This is the first step in a much larger world.

    Now we had to do this with crew on board!

    I know Story Musgrave has been outspoken against private space companies.
    With this success, I believe his arguements don’t hold up so well anymore.

  12. @ellindsey — thanks for that answer; I was wondering the same thing. (About why they were using the capture-then-berth method, and what the difference is between docking and berthing.)

  13. Messier Tidy Upper

    @1. Carey : ” Now Thierry Legault just needs to get a picture of the ISS+Dragon in front of the Sun.”

    Seconded – and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was working on that right now! ;-)
    (Spacecraft trajectories and geographic day-vs-night timing permitting.)

    I can’t wait to see it if /when he does. :-)

    Mind you, going to be more of a challenge for him given the smaller size of Dragon vs the Space Shuttles. Sure Thierry Legault can still do it tho’! 8)

    (Legault has photographed equal sized or smaller craft in orbit than Dragon if memory serves hasn’t he?)

  14. Satan Claws

    May 26th. The doors were opened. What a relief! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkyUMmNl4hk

  15. owlbear1

    Does anyone know how much NASA is charging SpaceX for use of all the launch facilities and engineering research?

  16. Michael Mullen

    16. owlbear1 Says:
    May 26th, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Does anyone know how much NASA is charging SpaceX for use of all the launch facilities and engineering research?

    ———————-

    You mean the launch facilities that SpaceX built on a bare patch of ground? The overwhelming bulk of the costs for the development of the Falcon9/Dragon have been borne by SpaceX.

  17. vince charles

    17. Michael Mullen Says:
    May 26th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    “You mean the launch facilities that SpaceX built on a bare patch of ground? The overwhelming bulk of the costs for the development of the Falcon9/Dragon have been borne by SpaceX.”

    What the…??? SpaceX bought the rights to an old Canaveral pad, and use Canaveral range support. Just like their previous use of Kwaj. You’re probably thinking of their PROPOSED private site in, likely, South Texas or possibly Puerto Rico. Hasn’t broken ground, hasn’t even been selected yet.

    Also, SpaceX developed Dragon knowing they had a market lined up. So while the actual dollars themselves originated with private lenders, those lenders would have charged a higher rate (or, perhaps wouldn’t have lent at all) without knowing the risk had largely been eased by a nice, juicy government contract. Bigelow wasn’t in the picture yet.

    You’re also ignoring the reentry shape, dating back to DoD research, and the reentry ablative, also derivative. Oh, and the GPS receivers, refined since ’60s demonstrator flights. And the numerous propellant and tank technologies set by researchers on military contracts, the alloys formulated by the Soviets, the solar cells enabled by numerous experimental flights, the multiple metallurgies and abort technique flown by NASA first, and of course, the use of simpler berthing by arm, allowed by a Canadian-funded arm and demonstrated by JAXA first…I could go on.

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