Early this morning at 5:53 a.m. EDT, the crew on board the International Space Station (ISS) opened the hatch to Space Exploration Technologies’ (SpaceX’s) Dragon spacecraft – and the doorway into a new means of conducting cargo and potentially crew delivery to the orbiting laboratory. With this final step, the Dragon spacecraft completed the major milestones of rendezvousing with the ISS, being grappled by and berthed to the space station and having its contents made available to the crew.
Expedition 31 crew member Don Pettit opened Dragon’s hatch and he and fellow ISS resident and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, the space station’s Commander, entered the Dragon. After checking out the insides of the spacecraft they were joined by European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andre Kuipers and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka.
The Dragon was berthed to the ISS on Friday and given that this was the first time a commercial spacecraft in general and the Dragon in particular had traveled to the ISS – things took a longer than usual. According to a SpaceX press release today’s operations went smoothly and were ahead of schedule with Pettit stating the spacecraft had a “new car” smell.
The ISS crew will unload the more than 1,000 lbs of cargo contained onboard Dragon and replace it with items that need to be returned to Earth. Unlike Russian, Japanese and European cargo spacecraft the Dragon reenters Earth’s atmosphere protected by a heat shield and does not burn up during reentry. The Dragon spacecraft is also reusable. If all goes according to plan some 1,400 lbs of experiments and other cargo will make the return trip when the Dragon splashes down in the Pacific Ocean just off the Coast of California.Missions » ISS » Missions » ISS » COTS »