SpaceX Dragon capsule approaches ISS for docking

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After yesterday's launch, the Crew Dragon capsule with the Ripley manikin and the 400 kilograms of cargo officially arrived on the International Space Station.

Launched on the company's Falcon 9 rocket, it was the first test mission of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and rocket designed for humans.

The mission is a test launch and only has a dummy on board the capsule ahead of a manned flight scheduled for later this year.

"This mission puts us a step closer toward re-establishing American access of American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil to the ISS for the first time since the Space Shuttle retired in 2011".

About five hours after the Crew Dragon docked at the space station, the Expedition 58 crew held a formal welcoming ceremony in which they commended the achievement of NASA's commercial crew program and gave a live video tour of the new addition to their home.

Though dates can shift, the latest schedule from NASA has SpaceX conducting an in-flight abort test in June and then following up in July with Demo-2, a flight that will take NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS.

Dragon will remain at the space station until Friday, when it undocks and aims to splashdown in the Atlantic ocean, a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.

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A veteran of two spaceflights, Garrett Reisman left NASA in 2011 to play a senior role in the development of the Crew Dragon spacecraft at SpaceX until previous year.

Aboard the space station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, and Russian cosmonaut and Expedition 58 commander Oleg Kononenko opened the hatch between the Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 8:07 a.m. EST. In a docking with a crew aboard, the capsule would likewise operate autonomously, though the astronauts might push a button or two and would be able to intervene if necessary.

Crew Dragon is occupied by a single dummy named Ripley - named after the protagonist of 1979 science fiction horror film Alien.

"Everything looks great", U.S. astronaut Anne McClain, who oversaw events from the station's big bay window, or Cupola.told Mission Control after looking inside Crew Dragon through a hatch window just before the crew entered. They burst into applause again, several minutes later, when the Dragon's latches were tightly secured. Boeing is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August.

Next up, though, should be Boeing, NASA's other commercial crew provider.

"Man, we were all working so hard to get to the start of flying this new vehicle-it was super exhilarating", he said. Russian Soyuz seats go for up to $82 million apiece.