"We've Captured Us a Dragon" -- Astronauts Successfully Bring SpaceX Vehicle to ISS

All it took was 58-foot robotic arm and pretty sharp space skills.


SpaceX is having a very good week. Elon Musk’s spaceflight company sent 2.5 tons of food, equipment, and research supplies to the International Space Station early Monday morning. The big news then was the successful landing of the mission’s Falcon 9 booster rocket back on solid ground for just the second time ever, and the fifth overall vertical landing of a Falcon 9 back on the surface of the earth. After the mission’s Dragon capsule detached.

It can add another notch to its belt this week, courtesy of NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins. The pair, currently aboard the ISS, used the 58-foot long Canadarm2 to successfully ensnare the SpaceX Dragon vehicle carrying the 5,000 pound pressurized cargo around 7 a.m. Wednesday as the station passed over the great lakes of North America, 250 miles in altitude above the surface of the planet.

“We’ve captured us a Dragon,” Williams told NASA crews back on the ground in Houston and SpaceX crews back in Hawthorne, California. He congratulated the SpaceX team that built and launched Dragon up to the ISS. “We look forward to the work that it brings.”

Williams and Rubins brought Dragon over to the nadir berthing port Harmony Node 2 onboard the football-field-sized station. It’s a relatively standard procedure at this point, but it’s nonetheless an impressive feat to maneuver a robotic arm in space and grab another spacecraft floating two-dozen meters or so away.

A view of Dragon from Canadarm2 as it approaches the vehicle.






The crew will be spending the next several days unpacking all of the new supplies out of Dragon. Besides a lot of amazing equipment and tools relevant to major scientific investigations, Dragon also brought to the ISS a new docking adapter conforming to new international standards that will allow ISS and its partners to have an easier time allowing those countries’ own spacecraft and commercial vehicles around the world to dock with the space station. The new Boeing Starliner and future SpaceX Dragon capsules including ones capable of carrying human astronauts — are expected to utilize this new docking standard.

Update: the berthing process was complete as of 10:03 a.m. EDT, just as the space station passed over Oregon, 253 miles above the Earth.