SpaceX Crew Dragon: First docking of a private spaceship to the International Space Station

SpaceX Crew Dragon: First docking of a private spaceship to the International Space Station
Arrival in the ISS for the Americans Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the passengers of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule. NASA TV CREDIT

This Sunday, May 31, 2020, two Nasa astronauts arrived safely aboard the International Space Station, after a flight aboard a capsule developed by the private Californian company SpaceX. It had been nine years since the Americans had any way to serve the station they initiated.

At 7:22 p.m. on May 31, 2020, American astronaut Bob Behnken entered the International Space Station (ISS) for the third time in his life, immediately followed by his compatriot Doug Hurley. As tradition dictates, they quickly settled for the traditional “photo” group. Nothing exceptional in this scene that repeats with every crew change on the ISS. What’s new: it was the first time a private spaceship dropped off astronauts at the station gates! What’s more, an American spaceship, the first manned space flight to reach the ISS since July 2011, when the U.S. space shuttles retired.

The capsule was named Endeavour in homage to the Space Shuttle

A Falcon-9 rocket from private company SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, took the new Crew Dragon capsule into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30, a first in nine years. The capsule was named Endeavour by the duo after the eponymous space shuttle that the two men have each taken in the past: their commonality in away. The flight went smoothly. The two astronauts, who spent the night in their seats, appreciated the relative silence of the machines in comparison with the shuttle that the duo knew well (two flights each). Elon Musk, a facetious teenager-fortysomething, woke them up to the sound of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan.” Man has a sense of symbols and staging. A shimmering dragon-shaped toy (car: Crew Dragon) had been installed in one of the capsule seats for this first flight. Objective: to embark big and small on this adventure that he wants to present as extraordinary.

Around 16:00, the American duo was able to enjoy the show of the ISS occupying the entire screen. The goal in sight! Crew Dragon is designed to dock autonomously, but crews aboard the spacecraft and space station were on the lookout to check the performance of the SpaceX capsule in its approach and docking procedures at the spaceport of the station’s Harmony module. Again, the docking was “nominal.”

The United States prides itself on a maneuver… regularly carried out by the Soyuz for 60 years
On the ISS side, astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatolia Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner prepared at length for the two pioneers of commercial flight to enter the station. So, more than half an hour late, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken joined their now-roommates on the ISS. For a mission of up to six months.

From this evening, what will we remember? That the comments supported by Nasa and SpaceX on “the first time in nine years” point precisely to the point that the Americans have been absent from the space chessboard of manned flight for nearly a decade. That the United States prides itself on a space event regularly performed by Soyuz capsules for sixty years: space flight at 400 km has long since become a routine. But Elon Musk’s SF-teen personality – as with the Falcon Heavy and its red Tesla in interplanetary flight – has reinvented the seduction of spaceflight.