SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has docked at the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial enterprise to do so.
Docking took place 19 hours after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on Saturday afternoon, carrying the Crew Dragon into orbit.
Soft capture, the moment when a spacecraft makes first contact and latches with a target vehicle, took place at 6.26pm UAE time.
SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission is the first flight with astronauts aboard the capsule built by entrepreneur Elon Musk’s commercial space company and the first US astronaut launch to orbit from home soil in nearly a decade.
Astronauts Robert Behnken, 49, and Douglas Hurley, 53, former military test pilots, joined US astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the ISS.
“It’s been a real honour to be just a small part of this nine-year endeavour since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Colonel Hurley said on confirmation of the docking.
It was the first time a privately built and owned spacecraft carried astronauts to the orbiting lab in its two-decade life. Nasa considers this the opening volley in a business revolution encircling Earth and eventually stretching to the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX conducted a successful test flight of Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March 2019 with a sensor-laden mannequin on board named Ripley, after the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film franchise.
The two US astronauts were originally scheduled to stay on the ISS for up to two weeks, but are now expected to stay for at least a month, as Nasa is short-staffed.