EghtesadOnline: A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station on Monday to deliver vital supplies for NASA and try something brand-new: park itself without the help of astronauts.
The private spaceflight company used a Falcon 9 rocket to launch CRS-21, the first flight to use the upgraded version of its Dragon cargo spacecraft, to the space station on Sunday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The vehicle autonomously docked with the orbiting laboratory at 1840 GMT, parking at the zenith, or space-facing, side of the station's Harmony module, Space.com reported.
Docking was delayed 10 minutes due to spotty communications with ground controllers during the last leg of the Dragon's trip. At the time of docking, the station was orbiting about 431 kilometers above the southern Indian Ocean, near Australia.
"The Cargo Dragon has officially made it to the International Space Station," NASA Spokesman Gary Jordan said during a live webcast of the docking. "Hatches are expected to be opened later today for that first access to some of the incredible science that is on board."
SpaceX's Dragon CRS-21 mission is the first supply ship to dock with the International Space Station without the help of astronauts, who typically use the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple incoming cargo vessels and manually attach them to the station. However, two Expedition 64 crewmembers — NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover — did monitor the docking from inside the station's Cupola observatory.
"It's pretty amazing to think that less than a month ago you docked four crewmembers to [the] International Space Station and now you're bringing a vehicle full of world-class science for us to execute," Rubins told mission controllers in Houston after the successful docking.
The arrival of the upgraded Dragon CRS-21 cargo spacecraft also marks the first time that two SpaceX Dragons have been docked with the International Space Station. A Crew Dragon spacecraft, which brought four astronauts to the space station in November on the Crew-1 mission, is also currently docked at the Harmony module.
"It's first time we'll have a couple of Dragons on board; we have the Crew Dragon, we'll have a cargo Dragon. So, again, Dragons everywhere you look. It'll be a lot of fun," Kenny Todd, NASA's deputy program manager for the International Space Station, said during a prelaunch news conference on Friday.
SpaceX has redesigned its workhorse Dragon cargo spacecraft not only to dock autonomously with ISS, but also to have about 20% more cargo capacity and the ability to support more science experiments with additional powered lockers inside.