SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully docks with ISS

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NASA has relied on Russian Federation to ferry its astronauts to the space station since the end of the United States space shuttle program in 2011 after a 30-year run.

This week, NASA and SpaceX revealed that Crew Dragon had met all the requirements and been cleared for its test flight to the International Space Station this weekend.

In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured just beside the International Space Station.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said at a post-launch press conference Saturday that the mission is the "culmination of a long dream for a lot of people at SpaceX".

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Musk also said the revised backshell performs very well in SpaceX's re-entry computer simulations but has yet to be proven in flight.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon - the first crew-capable spacecraft the company has ever produced - is about to be tested in a big way. Now, slightly more than 24 hours later, the next phase of the test has played out.

The rendezvous with the orbiting lab marks the first time that Crew Dragon, created to eventually carry astronauts, has ever flown and raises the stakes for rival Boeing Co, which also has a contract with Nasa as part of what is known as the agency's "Commercial Crew" programme. The station did not use its robotic arm to lead the ship into the dock.

Crew Dragon will dock to the forward port of the space station's Harmony module, which has been fitted with an International Docking Adaptor (IDA).

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No astronauts were riding the Crew Dragon for this flight.

In less than a decade, SpaceX has become a key partner for NASA, in addition to dominating the market for private satellite launches. The spacecraft encountered no serious issues as it approached the station, executing a series of maneuvers including one where, at a distance of 150 meters from the station, it halted its approach and retreated to 180 meters to test the ability to back away from the station in the event of a problem. The capsule will remain at the ISS for another five days.

Both companies have received billions of dollars from NASA to develop spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts safely to and from the station. But it won't happen before 2023 - with the rocket, far more powerful than that used for the Dragon mission, still in development. "SpaceX would not be here without NASA, without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started, and without the support after SpaceX did start".

Astronauts David Saint-Jacques and Oleg Artemyev swung open the hatch and entered the capsule at 7:07 Houston, where NASA employees watched. "We have to dock to the station".

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Today's docking came about 27 hours after the Crew Dragon's launch from Florida, on an uncrewed maiden voyage aimed at demonstrating that all of its systems will be safe for crewed flights.