Following a successful launch on Sunday evening, the SpaceX Resilience capsule with its four astronauts aboard rendezvoused with the International Space Station and docked at 11:01 pm on Monday, increasing the ISS’ crew count to seven as it continues its working orbit of the earth.
Commander Michael Hopkins and pilot Victor Glover monitored the autonomous docking process aboard the Crew Dragon capsule.
“Resilience, SpaceX. Docking sequence is complete,” said SpaceX mission control communicator Anna Menon. “Welcome to the ISS.”
“SpaceX, this is Resilience,” Hopkins replied. “Excellent job, right down the center. SpaceX and NASA, congratulations. This is a new era of operational flights to the International Space Station from the Florida coast. And ISS, Sergey, Sergey, and Kate, we’ll see you real soon.”
In a first for a U.S. orbital spacecraft, the Crew Dragon is designed to fly itself all the way to docking with no manual input from the astronauts unless needed. Touchscreen flight controls are available if needed, but no such hands-on flying was planned or took place during the flight the ISS.
Along with launching NASA-sponsored astronauts from U.S. soil aboard American spacecraft, the crewed SpaceX ships will make it possible for NASA to support four full-time station crew members, increase the amount of scientific work the lab can accomplish.
The astronauts are expected to stay aboard the ISS for 6 months before returning to earth and splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.