The crew of the NASA SpaceX Demo-2 mission has arrived at the International Space Station safely.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley launched aboard the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft on May 30 at 19:22 UTC from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Following a 19-hour pursuit, the spacecraft docked with the station’s Harmony module at 14:16 UTC while it orbited 420 kilometers above the northern border of China and Mongolia.
At 17:02 UTC, the hatch of the Dragon Endeavour was opened and Behnken and Hurley were greeted by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Expedition 63.
“It’s obviously been our honour to be just a small part of this,” said Hurley speaking to the agency’s chief, Jim Bridenstine. “We have to give credit to SpaceX, the Commercial Crew Program, and of course, NASA. It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business.”
The successful launch and docking of the Dragon Endeavour is the first crewed mission launched from the US since the retirement of the space shuttle almost a decade ago. The launch is also the first time a commercially built spacecraft has delivered astronauts to the orbiting laboratory.
“It flew just like it was supposed to. We had a couple opportunities to take it out for a spin so to speak,” explained Hurley while answering a question from Texas Senator Ted Cruz. “And my compliments to the folks back at Hawthorne at SpaceX for how well it flew. It is exactly like the simulator. We couldn’t be happier about the performance of the vehicle.”
NASA followed a tradition dating back to the beginning of its manned space program allowing crews to select the names of spacecraft. Behnken and Hurley settled on Endeavour. During a tour of their spacecraft, Hurley explained that they selected Endeavour in part because both him and Behnken had served aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The name is also symbolic of the work put into the Commercial Crew Program by so many since its founding in 2011.
Behnken and Hurley are expected to remain onboard the station with the Expedition 63 crew for a currently undetermined “extended stay.” The length of the stay will reportedly be determined by how well the Dragon spacecraft’s solar panels stand up to the rigours of space.