Dragon successfully docks with ISS

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Capitalism in space: SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, designed to carry humans to space, has successfully docked for the first time at ISS.

The flight really has only one major task left, which it to return safely to Earth, which presently is scheduled for 8:45 am (eastern) on March 7. I expect that to go smoothly as well.

NASA and SpaceX will of course need to review all the test data from this unmanned test flight before okaying a manned flight. SpaceX also needs to first do a launch abort test, using this capsule. However, I do not expect either to result in any issues that should prevent a manned launch in July, as SpaceX presently plans.

NASA however might think differently. There have been strong factions within its management and bureaucracy that are hostile to this effort, and have been working to stall or stop it.



  • pzatchok

    They always have two other options if the autonomous docking does not work.

    They can use the arm or manually fly/dock it, either by remote or by trained passenger.

    Considering the Russians are allowed to auto dock, NASA better get with the game quick start letting private companies.

    The same with landing on land.

  • Kyle

    Just to clarify, all these test just to certify NASA’s astronauts on the Dragon or any humans on Dragon? Like if I had $58 million laying around, could I privately finance a launch into space with Dragon tomorrow? And if that is the case could I opt to land Dragon on land with its boosters instead of a water landing, to salvage another flight with it like originally planned.

  • geoffc

    @Kyle: I THINK That you could not land a Dragon V2 on land using super Draco’s, since they deleted the landing legs, since NASA thought it was too complex to punch holes through the heat shield. (After all the Shuttle had three such holes on every flight, and anything the Shuttle did was compleetly unsafe).

  • Richard M


    Musk said at the press conference that SpaceX would start to market the Dragon to non-government customers once it was in operation for NASA.

    The trick is, though, that NASA has been consistently against tourists at the ISS. So unless Bob Bigelow or someone else puts up a LEO station, you’d be limited to a free flight in low earth orbit for no more than 7 days (the limit of Dragon 2 life support).

  • Michael

    geoffc: four. You forgot the external tank disconnect.

    In general one can debate the safety of shuttle.

  • mpthompson

    I would think 4 seats at $50M each for a 3 to 5 day trip into orbit without a visit to ISS would find a good number of well-healed buyers. Especially if SpaceX could somehow fit larger windows on the capsule.

    BTW, I was under the impression, Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s current administrator was more open to possibly allowing space tourists to the ISS. It was mentioned at the post-launch press conference on Sunday morning.

  • Richard M

    One day, a worthwhile book is going to be written on the Commercial Cargo and Crew programs of the 2010’s, and it is going to make a revealing look at why the final phase of Commercial Crew, CCtCap, has dragged on for so long and driven up costs so much, in contrast to both the earlier phases of the program (CCDev, CCiCap, and CPC) as well as Commercial Cargo.

    Those programs were remarkable successes. CCtCAP, not so much.

  • pzatchok

    The legs could be attached above the heat shield and extend out and over during landing.

    Going through the shield is easier and lighter but …….

    Even if the shield gets damaged when it hits the ground so what, it can get changed anyways.

  • Edward

    geoffc wrote: “I THINK That you could not land a Dragon V2 on land using super Draco’s, since they deleted the landing legs, since NASA thought it was too complex to punch holes through the heat shield.

    and pzatchok wrote: “The legs could be attached above the heat shield and extend out and over during landing.

    I suspect that the fundamental problem is that NASA has become shy, where innovative design is concerned, which is a terrible shame, because we think of NASA as being technologically on the cutting edge. They tried innovation with the Space Shuttle, and that got them a system that did not perform as expected. Their solution, when it came time to replace the Shuttle, was to go back to the Apollo-like capsule concept rather than improve on the reusabilty concept. Since they have a lot of control over the Commercial Crew program, they have flexed their muscles many times, over these past few years, and prevented some innovations that showed great promise.

    Fortunately, for the next segment of Commercial Resupply Services (unmanned supply delivery to ISS), Sierra Nevada is working on a much more reusable lifting body design, Dream Chaser, that is far more like the reusable Shuttle concept than Boeing (Starliner), Lockheed (Orion), or SpaceX (Dragon 2). When Dream Chaser works out well, perhaps NASA will be a little more willing to be innovative.

    It is also fortunate that SpaceX is keeping government away from their Starship and Super Heavy designs, which allows the company to be as innovative as it wants to be.

    I think that our main lesson learned from NASA and government control over space launches and operations is that when government runs things, all we get is what the government wants, but SpaceX showed that when We the People do things, we get what we want.

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