US astronauts dock at ISS after SpaceX launch

Via Yahoo Finance

US astronauts who yesterday were launched into space in the first crewed flight of Elon Musk’s SpaceX have now docked with International Space Station (ISS).  

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken had been orbiting Earth for around 19 hours before the capsule they were in docked on Sunday. Leak and pressure checks need to be completed before they are allowed to disembark and join the other astronauts aboard the station. 

Mr Hurley said on Sunday: “It’s been a real honor to be just a small part of this nine year endeavor since the last time a United States space ship docked with the International Space Station.”

It is the pair’s third mission into space, but marked a historic event, with the launch the first time that American astronauts have launched from US soil since 2011.

In the nine years since then, NASA astronauts have reached ISS by buying seats on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

The latest launch is also the first time that a private company has been involved in taking astronauts to the ISS, and the first crewed mission for SpaceX, the company run by tech mogul Elon Musk.

Initially the launch had been expected to take place on Wednesday, but was postponed after concerns over the weather. Mr Musk yesterday said he was “overcome with emotion” after the launch took place. It was watched live by 10 million people. 

President Donald Trump, who was at the Kennedy Space Center, said it was “beautiful”. “It’s incredible, the power, the technology,” he said.  He is only the third sitting president to watch a live launch from the center. 

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Today, NASA confirmed that the Dragon capsule, operated by SpaceX, docked with the ISS slightly ahead of schedule. Docking is a dangerous part of the mission, with the capsule having to slow down from around 17,500 mph and go through a series of careful manoeuvre to dock safely. 

SpaceX has emerged as a key player in space exploration in recent years, with the company pioneering reusable rockets to help cut costs.

Earlier this month, one of the astronauts on the mission, Mr Hurley, said he considered the SpaceX capsule a safe, “pretty tried and true” design.