A little while ago, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft docked to the International Space Station’s Harmony module completing the first part of its Crew-2 or SpaceX Crew-2 mission that began yesterday with its launch. After checking that the pressure is correctly balanced, the hatch will be opened to allow Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough, and Akihiko Hoshide to enter the Station.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft is equipped with an automated docking system to the International Docking Adapter (IDA). The approach to the Station follows a procedure in which safety is the top priority, so every little step of the Crew Dragon is checked up. Only if all goes well in the spacecraft’s position and speed they can proceed with the next step and in case of problems it can be aborted at each step. During the previous missions, they successfully verified that this system worked correctly, but it’s always a sensitive procedure.
For the first time, astronauts were launched on a rocket with a used first stage as it was the same one used to launch the Crew-1 mission. The Crew Dragon Endeavor spacecraft was reused after being refurbished at the end of the SPX-DM2 mission, SpaceX’s first mission to transport astronauts in May 2020, and some systems were updated. Megan McArthur sat in the same seat used by her husband Bob Behnken during the SPX-DM2 mission.
For a few days, two Crew Dragon spacecraft will remain docked with the International Space Station. The Resilience, used for the Crew-1 mission, will bring four astronauts back to Earth on April 28. This also means that there will be 11 people at the Station for a few days. The last time there were two American spacecraft on a mission at the same time happened in the 1960s. In this case, the missions are related to the Station. This is another historic moment for SpaceX, as Boeing is still accumulating delays, and the re-test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is now scheduled for no earlier than August.
The second SpaceX astronaut transport mission in the regular crew rotation of the International Space Station concluded its first leg smoothly. The new crew members will remain on the International Space Station until at least October 2021. NASA has put a lot of emphasis on this mission just as the agency did with the Crew-1, but traveling on the Crew Dragon spacecraft already seems to have become part of the routine. In space missions, nothing can be taken for granted, and this appearance of a simple journey is possible thanks to a lot of people people who have been working for a long time.