Space X’s new crew capsule docks at the International Space Station

Space X’s new crew capsule with only Ripley the dummy aboard docks at the International Space Station – the first American-made, designed-for-crew spacecraft to pull up in eight years

  • Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday just 27 hours after liftoff
  • Only passenger was a life-size test dummy, dubbed Ripley after the lead character in the ‘Alien’ movies  
  • SpaceX hopes to send astronauts into space as early as summer – first time America has done for eight years 
  • Capsule will remain at space station until Friday, when it undocks and aims for a splashdown in the Atlantic 

SpaceX’s new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day.

The Dragon capsule, whose only passenger was a life-size test dummy, dubbed Ripley after the lead character in the ‘Alien’ movies, was launched on Saturday from Cape Canaveral on its first test flight.  

Three station astronauts had front-row seats as the sleek, white vessel neatly docked and became the first American-made, designed-for-crew spacecraft to pull up in eight years. 

TV cameras on Dragon as well as the space station provided stunning views of one another throughout the rendezvous.

If the six-day demo goes well, SpaceX could launch two astronauts this summer under NASA’s commercial crew program.

Both astronauts – Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken – were at SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, observing all the action. They rushed there from Florida after watching the Dragon rocket into orbit early Saturday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.    

‘Just super excited to see it,’ Behnken said minutes after the link-up. ‘Just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight coming up here.’  

SpaceX’s new crew capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday, acing its second milestone in just over a day 

The Dragon capsule, whose only passenger was a life-size test dummy, dubbed Ripley after the lead character in the ‘Alien’ movies, was launched on Saturday from Cape Canaveral on its first test flight

If the six-day demo goes well, SpaceX could launch two astronauts this summer under NASA’s commercial crew program. Pictured: SpaceX team in Hawthorne control with a photo of the Dragon capsule docked to the ISS

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    While SpaceX has sent plenty of cargo Dragons to the space station, crew Dragon is a different beast. 

    It docked autonomously under the station astronauts’ watchful eyes, instead of relying on the station’s robot arm for berthing. 

    Behnken said that’s the way it should work when he and Hurley are on board; they may push a button or two and will have the ability to intervene, if necessary.  

    As part of Sunday’s shakedown, the station astronauts sent commands for the Dragon to retreat and then move forward again, before the capsule closed in for good.

    SpaceX employees at company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheered and applauded as crew Dragon pulled up and docked at the orbiting lab, nearly 260 miles (400 kilometers) above the Pacific, north of New Zealand. 

    They burst into applause again, several minutes later, when the Dragon’s latches were tightly secured –  just 27 hours after liftoff.

    The station astronauts offered congratulations to SpaceX, as they got ready to open the hatches and collect the supplies stashed aboard Dragon. 

    The capsule’s lone passenger, Ripley – a mannequin wearing a white SpaceX spacesuit – also was going to be welcomed aboard.

    Yesterday, Elon Musk described the successful as ‘super stressful’ after revealing he gave the capsule just a 10 percent chance of reaching orbit.  

    SpaceX needs to nail the debut of the capsule, which took off from Cape Canaveral in the early hours, before putting people on board later this year.   

    Speaking at a press conference after the launch, Musk said: ‘I almost thought we would fail. I thought maybe we’d have a 10 percent chance of reaching orbit starting out. I’m a little emotionally exhausted because that was super stressful, but it worked.’ 

    If the six-day demo goes well, SpaceX could launch two astronauts this summer under NASA’s commercial crew program Pictured: The SpaceX Falcon rocket lifts off from pad 39A

    Elon Musk described the launch as ‘super stressful’ launch. Pictured: A life-size test dummy floating in the Dragon capsule as the capsule made orbit yesterday

    The Dragon capsule docked autonomously under the station astronauts’ watchful eyes, instead of relying on the station’s robot arm for berthing

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      SpaceX needs to nail the debut of the capsule before putting people on board later this year. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are set to be the first pilots

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        Pictured: the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from the Kennedy Space Centre, captured in this shot from Vero Beach in Florida


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        Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it undocks and aims for a splashdown in the Atlantic, a couple hundred miles off the Florida coast.

        Pictured: Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in Alien (1979), who was the inspiration of the dummy Riley

        Like Ripley, the capsule is rigged with sensors to measure noise, vibration and stresses, and to monitor the life-support, propulsion and other critical systems throughout the flight.

        SpaceX aims to launch Behnken and Hurley as early as July for the second space demo.

        Next up, though, should be Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew provider. Boeing is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.

        NASA is paying the two private companies $8 billion to build and operate the capsules for ferrying astronauts to and from the space station. 

        Astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets ever since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.

        An estimated 5,000 NASA and contractor employees, tourists and journalists gathered in the wee hours at Kennedy Space Center with the SpaceX launch team, as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the same spot where Apollo moon rockets and space shuttles once soared. 

        SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave a post-launch news conference this morning after the test flight successfully took off

        The Ripley dummy was strapped into the far left seat, wearing the company’s snappy white spacesuit. The other seats were empty, save for a small plush toy resembling Earth that was free to float once reaching zero-gravity 

        This latest, flashiest Dragon is on a fast track to reach the space station on Sunday morning, just 27 hours after liftoff 

        NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken could strap in as early as July if this test flight goes well 

        Pictured: the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, ready for launch, sits on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, yesterday

        ‘We are not in a space race,’ he said. ‘That race is over. We went to the moon and we won. It’s done. Now we’re in a position where we can take our time and make sure we get it right.’

        The white crew Dragon is slightly bigger than cargo versions – 27 feet (8 meters) tip to tip – and considerably fancier and safer.

        It features four seats, three windows, touch-screen computer displays and life-support equipment, as well as eight abort engines to pull the capsule to safety in the event of a launch emergency. 

        Solar cells are mounted on the spacecraft for electrical power, as opposed to the protruding solar wings on cargo Dragons.

        ‘It’s an incredibly sleek looking vehicle from the inside and it’s very easy to operate,’ Hurley told reporters just hours before liftoff. 

        He said he marvels at how the Dragon has just 30 buttons and touch screens, compared with the space shuttle cockpit’s 2,000 switches and circuit breakers.

        For the test, the Ripley dummy was strapped into the far left seat, wearing the company’s snappy white spacesuit. 

        The other seats were empty, save for a small plush toy resembling Earth that was free to float once reaching zero-gravity. ‘Super high tech zero-g indicator added just before launch!’ Musk tweeted.

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          SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons – but this capsule is slightly bigger than those at  27 feet (8 meters) tip to tip, and considerably fancier and safer

          The Dragon capsule features four seats, three windows, touch-screen computer displays and life-support equipment, as well as eight abort engines to pull the capsule to safety in the event of a launch emergency

          It’s been eight years since Hurley and three other astronauts flew the last space shuttle mission, and human launches from Florida ceased 

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