Dragon Arrives at the ISS after a Perfect Flight

Following a Successful Launch on the first full Falcon 9 Block 4 (previous flights have flown Block 4 Second Stages) Dragon arrived at the ISS and was captured by the Stations Canadarm, concluding a 36-hour journey.

Falcon 9 blasted off on Sunday, August 14 and deployed Dragon around 10 minutes later. Dragon (the last new-build of the first generation capsule) then open the GNC Bay Door around 2 hours later. This bay contains optical sensors, laser-baser range sensors and inertial sensors. Most importantly, it contains the grapple fixture that Canadarm, the stations robotic arm, attaches to.

The CRS-12 vehicle then spent the next 36 hours performing manoeuvres with its Draco engines. An upgraded version of these engines (Super Draco’s) will fly on Dragon 2, or Crew Dragon. Which is first expected to fly early 2018 on DM-1 (Dragon Mission 1) where an un-crewed Dragon 2 will complete a flight test verifying all the systems for DM-2 where crew will be onboard. This is all under the Commercial Crew Program which involves SpaceX with Dragon 2 and Boeing with the Starliner, which are both set to transport crews to and from the ISS.

Dragon arrived at the 350m point away from the ISS early Wednesday morning where it conducted a 180° Yaw Manoeuvre. Then it fired its thrusters to get to 250m away from the Station. The ground teams at Hawthorne for SpaceX and in Houston for the ISS Control Room, conducted checks on Dragon and all the ISS’s systems in preparation for capture, and then the same again once Dragon was 30 meters away.


At around 10:40 UTC, Dragon arrived at the final 10m holding point for capture and the “Go for Capture” call was given 5 minutes later.

At 10:50 UTC, the Canadarm began to extend towards Dragon’s GNC Bay, where the Grapple Fixture is located, and captured Dragon at 10:52 UTC.

Following the successful capture, Canadarm positioned Dragon right in-front of the Earth Facing CBM (Common Berthing Mechanism) on the Harmony Module. Dragon was then moved towards the port and the bolts were driven to secure it to the ISS. This process is called First and Second Stage Capture. Once all 16 bolts were driven, berthing was officially completed at 13:07 UTC.


Up Next

Next up for SpaceX is the Formosat-5 Launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the 24th August. This will be the lightest payload Falcon 9 has ever launched at just 475kg. Following that will be the OTV-5 Launch from LC-39A which will send the X-37B Space Plane into Low-Earth Orbit.

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