Dragon En Route To ISS

This week has been very exciting for the entire aerospace community. Sleep patterns are being severely disrupted! It all began with the successful launch, after a dramatic abort two days earlier, of the SpaceX Dragon: the first commercially developed space capsule was sent on its way to the ISS, for the first time. You can watch a video of the launch here:


Of course, this is just a test flight, but a very complex undertaking in any case. We should anticipate that some things will not work as planned. The whole purpose of these test flights is to see how the system performs, and to find problems so they can be fixed. It is desirable for problems and weaknesses to be exposed during a test — not later with astronauts on board.

So far, everything is going very well. Dragon is currently flying on a trajectory close to the station. Here is a video from the perspective of the ISS:


In its orbit, Dragon is performing various remotely controlled maneuvers intended to demonstrate that the capsule is fully under control. This is necessary before Dragon will be cleared to fly a close approach to the station, to be captured by the station’s robotic arm. The final decision for the go-ahead rests with Oleg Kononenko, the current commander of the ISS, who is responsible for the safety of the space station and its crew of six.

Here are the milestones for the coming days, from a SpaceX press release:

FRIDAY MORNING – Final Approach, Dragon Grapple

Around 2:00 AM Pacific/5:00 AM Eastern NASA will decide if Dragon is GO to move into the approach ellipsoid 1.4 kilometers around the space station. If Dragon is GO, after approximately one hour Dragon will move to a location 250 meters directly below the station. Dragon will then perform a series of maneuvers to show systems are operating as expected. If NASA is satisfied with the results of these many tests, Dragon will be allowed to perform the final approach to the space station.

Sometime around 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern, astronauts on the space station will grapple Dragon with the space station’s robotic arm and the spacecraft will attach to the station.


If all goes well, at approximately 2:00 AM Pacific/5:00 AM Eastern, the crew will start procedures to open Dragon’s hatch. It will take around 2 hours to complete all operations leading to the hatch opening. Once the hatch is opened, astronauts will enter Dragon for the first time in space.

All dates and times are approximate and could easily change.

NASA TV is covering many of these events. NASA and ESA both maintain web sites for the ISS:



To be informed about California-related aerospace and astronomy news, please follow my Twitter feed at:


Related Articles:


Journalist and media professional currently based in Los Angeles, California. Focusing on science and technology.