Mission Crew-6: the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft has reached the International Space Station with four astronauts of the Expedition 68

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft docked with the Harmony module of the International Space Station completing the first part of its Crew-6 or SpaceX Crew-6 mission that began with its launch a little more than 24 hours earlier. After checking that the pressure was properly balanced, the hatch was opened to allow Andrey Fedyaev, Stephen Bowen, Warren Hoburg, and Sultan Alneyadi to enter the Station and start their mission, which will last about six months.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is equipped with an automated docking system for the International Docking Adapter (IDA). The approach procedure, with safety as the top priority, has been extensively tested during previous missions of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Today’s docking was delayed slightly following a problem that turned out to be with a sensor in Endeavour’s docking system. Precisely for safety reasons, NASA and SpaceX worked at their respective mission control centers to verify that the systems were working properly before completing the procedure.

The International Space Station’s position in its orbit counts a lot in calculating the time needed to reach it. If possible, a date is chosen for the launch that allows for a journey that does not exceed much more than 24 hours to limit the time spent by astronauts in transit. For this reason, the launch was originally scheduled for last Monday but a problem, which was later identified in the ground systems and not in the Falcon 9 rocket, caused it to be canceled. Thursday was the first day that the weather was good and allowed for a journey of about 24 hours.

The Crew-6 mission’s crew met the Crew-5 mission’s crew, who are scheduled to be back on Earth later this month. There are still no certain dates for the next SpaceX private mission that will arrive on the International Space Station but the Crew-6 crew could be the first of a SpaceX mission to meet the crew of a Boeing mission. The first crewed mission of the Starliner spacecraft continues to accumulate delays even after the success of the uncrewed test but could be conducted, at last, next spring. However, it will take months before Boeing begins missions with astronauts within the normal rotation of the Station’s crew while SpaceX’s missions have already become routine.

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