/Image shows 2 SpaceX spaceships docked to the space station at once – Business Insider – Business Insider

Image shows 2 SpaceX spaceships docked to the space station at once – Business Insider – Business Insider

  • SpaceX’s Dragon capsule docked to the International Space Station on Monday, carrying a load of cargo.
  • The spacecraft docked next to the SpaceX Crew Dragon ship that ferried four astronauts into orbit last month.
  • For the next 13 months, SpaceX will have at least one spaceship in orbit continuously.
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After launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Monday.

Unlike the Crew Dragon spaceship that flew four astronauts into orbit a few weeks ago, this model was designed to ferry supplies to and from space. It carried 6,400-plus pounds of Christmas presents, science experiments, and other resupply material. But the Crew Dragon is still attached to the ISS as well — it is slated to stay in space until May, then fly its crew back to Earth. 

So now, Elon Musk’s rocket company has two spacecraft docked to the space station for the first time ever. 

“I’d just like to say a huge congratulations,” NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who has been on board the station since October, said on NASA TV after the Dragon docked.

“It’s pretty amazing to think that less than a month ago you docked four crew members,” Rubins added, referring to SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, which includes NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi. “And now you’re bringing a vehicle full of world class science for us to execute.”

The cargo Dragon spaceship will stay at the station for a month before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and parachutes into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the 21st time SpaceX has sent cargo to the space station on one of its spaceships – it’s been doing routine missions for this purpose since 2012

SpaceX will have at least one spacecraft in orbit continuously until the end of next year

An image taken from the space station on Monday (below) shows the Dragon as it docked to one of the International Space Station’s two ports. The image labeled with arrows above shows the cargo Dragon’s nose cone near the top of the image, and a sliver of Crew Dragon’s on the left. 

spacex dragon dec 7 2

In this image from NASA TV, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docks to the International Space Station, December 7, 2020.


Monday’s docking was the latest event in SpaceX’s busiest launch period ever.

By December 2021, SpaceX’s two types of Dragon spacecraft – for crew and cargo – will have launched into space a combined 13 times since the company launched its uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon in March 2019.

What’s more, if all goes according to plan, SpaceX will have had spaceships in orbit continuously for 13 months by the end of next year.

“Every time there’s a Dragon launch, there’ll be two Dragons in space,” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said at a press conference in October.

The company’s next astronaut mission, Crew-2, is scheduled to launch in March. So those astronauts will overlap with the Crew-1 crew until May. The same thing should happen with the following mission, Crew-3: It’s expected to launch in September 2021, so should tag up with Crew-2 in orbit.

SpaceX won the race in NASA’s Commercial Crew program

crew1 astronauts nasa crew dragon elon musk

From top left: Shannon Walker, Soichi Noguchi, Victor J. Glover, Jr., and Michael Hopkins pose with SpaceX founder Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

Jim Bridenstine/NASA

SpaceX’s astronaut missions — and the existence of Crew Dragon in the first place — are the product of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which put private firms in competition for billions of dollars’ worth of government contracts. SpaceX and Boeing won in the end.

Boeing is expected to launch the first crewed demonstration mission of its CST-100 Starliner spaceship in June 2021. The NASA astronauts chosen for that first flight are Barry Wilmore, Michael Fincke, and Nicole Aunapu Mann.

But first, Boeing will have to retry an uncrewed demonstration mission, since an attempt in December 2019 failed. During that flight, the Starliner entered orbit successfully but failed to rendezvous with the space station due to software errors that NASA then investigated. 

Until the Starliner completes the required steps for certification, Crew Dragon remains the only ship the US has to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

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