Thursday, May 24, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Completes Space Station Fly-Under

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida --  The SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully flew under the International Space Station this morning marking yet another historic milestone in commercial space history.

At 3:58 a.m. E.D.T., the SpaceX Dragon capsule executed a burn to bring the spacecraft to 2.5 kilometers below the International Space Station.

At 4:43 a.m. E.D.T., the Dragon executed a co-eliptic burn which moved the spacecraft 40 kilometers behind the Space Station, marking the beginning of the fly-under.  From this distance, Astronaut and Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Petit was able to spot the Dragon for the cupola of the ISS.

Once the capsule was in place, scientists and engineers then began the testing of Dragon's GPS systems.  NASA said that the initial data looked good with data being received aboard the ISS and confirmed by SpaceX engineers.

Don Petitt then tested the Dragon's UHF communications at 6:28 E.D.T. by successfully commanding the Dragon to turn on its strobe light which verified that the Station Crew are able to send commands to the capsule.

The Dragon then departed the space station's vicinity at 8:09 a.m. E.D.T., marking the end of the successful fly under.

Tomorrow, the Dragon will re-approach the Space Station for grapple and berthing attempts.

If the Dragon is cleared for capture tomorrow, the Space Station's Canadarm2 will perform a cosmic catch by grappling the capsule and installing it on the space station. 

With NASA astronaut Don Pettit and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers at the helm, Canadarm2 will reach out to grasp Dragon at a distance of 8-10 meters below the station. Pettit will use the robotic arm to seize a grapple fixture located on the side of the capsule, and Kuipers will use Canadarm2 to install it on the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony node. Dragon will mark Canadarm2’s third successful capture and docking of a free-flying spacecraft. 

Pictured above, the Dragon capsule appeared as a small dot from the International Space Station during today's fly-under.