SpaceX has marked another milestone for private spacecraft. The company’s Crew Dragon successfully docked with the International Space Station at 5:08AM Eastern, making it the firm’s first reused crew capsule to reach the orbiting platform and the first crewed mission with a reused Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew-2 astronauts themselves made history when they started boarding at 7:15AM ET — this was the first time SpaceX had carried passengers from three different agencies (NASA, ESA and JAXA), not to mention the first for NASA in two decades.
Mission lead Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, the ESA’s Thomas Pesquet and JAXA’s Akihiko Hoshide will stay aboard the ISS for about six months to conduct experiments. The station now has 11 people aboard (which hasn’t happened since the Space Shuttle era), although that won’t last long with Crew-1’s four astronauts slated to return on April 28th.
Expect this to be relatively commonplace going forward. SpaceX already has crewed ISS missions lined up through 2023, including an all-private flight (AX-1) currently scheduled for January 2022. The Crew-2 docking is a big step toward private spacecraft becoming frequent sights in orbit, whether they’re meeting the ISS or conducting civilian missions.
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