CRS-14 Dragon berths with ISS

 SpaceX's CRS-14 Dragon rendezvous with the ISS. Credit: NASA

SpaceX's CRS-14 Dragon rendezvous with the ISS. Credit: NASA

The CRS-14 Dragon capsule rendezvous and berthed with the International Space Station after a two-day trek to the orbiting outpost. Capture by the robotic Canadarm2 took place at 6:40 a.m. EDT (10:40 GMT) April 4, 2018, while the orbiting complex was fly some 250 miles (400 kilometers) above southern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 At the Robotics Work Station controls inside the station’s cupola window was Expedition 55 astronaut Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

“I don’t think it gets any better than that,” said NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, one of six people living aboard the ISS as part of Expedition 55. “Everything went very smooth from our perspective.”

The vehicle used sensors and laser navigation to autonomously guide itself toward the outpost. During the mission’s post-launch press briefing on April 2, Jessica Jensen, the director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, told SpaceFlight Insider that the spacecraft performs hundreds to thousands of thruster firings of its Draco engines during its two-day journey to the ISS. Although she said the majority of those are for attitude adjustment and pointing, a few major burns were used to push the spacecraft from its initial insertion orbit to the orbit of the orbiting laboratory.

Once the capsule was within about 10 meters of the Earth-facing side of the Destiny laboratory module, Kanai used Canadarm2 to grab the grapple fixture on Dragons Guidance, Navigation and Control bay door.

The CRS-14 Dragon was then maneuvered over the course of two hours to just below the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, located on the the forward end of the space station. The official time of the bolting of the spacecraft and station together was 9 a.m. EDT (13:00 GMT).

Dragon launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:30 p.m. EDT (20:30 GMT) April 2, 2018. It carries 2,647 kilograms of food, experiments and hardware, which includes several items in the spacecraft’s unpressurized trunk such as the Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor and the Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility.

The pressure vessel for this spacecraft was the same one used during the CRS-8 mission in April 2016. Notably, that mission brought the Bigelow Aerospace Activity Module to the ISS where it still resides today.

Over the course of a one-month stay at the ISS, the capsule will be unloaded. Then the craft will be reloaded with unneeded equipment (including Robonaut2, which is returning to Earth for repairs), completed experiments, and trash for return to Earth.

After it is unberthed on May 2, 2018, it will autonomously move away from the space station and then, several hours later, use its Draco thrusters to perform a 10-minute de-orbit burn. It will splash down in the Pacific Ocean west of the coast of Baja California.

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Derek Richardson

I am a space geek who loves to write about space.

My passion for space ignited when I watched space shuttle Discovery leap to space on October 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, I soon realized that my true calling was communicating to others about space exploration and spreading that passion.

Currently, I am a senior at Washburn University studying Mass Media with an emphasis in contemporary journalism. In addition to running Orbital Velocity, I write for the Washburn Review and am the Managing Editor for SpaceFlight Insider.