SpaceX Crew Dragon docks at space station, delivering three-country, four-man crew for six-month stay
A day after launch from the Kennedy Space Center, a Crew Dragon spacecraft docked at the International Space Station early Friday, bringing two NASA astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and a United Arab Emirates astronaut to the outpost for a six-month stay.
With Crew-6 commander Stephen Bowen and pilot Woody Hoburg monitoring computer displays, flanked on the right by cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and on the left by Sultan Alneyadi, the Crew Dragon engaged the docking mechanism of the forward Harmony module’s space-facing port at 1:40 a.m. EST.
The docking came a bit later than planned while SpaceX engineers developed and tested a software patch to work around a faulty sensor on one of the 12 hooks needed to lock the Crew Dragon in place.
“After a brief scenic detour, welcome to the International Space Station,” David Hwang, a crew communicator in SpaceX mission control, radioed from Hawthorne, California.
“We’re happy to be here,” replied Bowen, veteran of three space shuttle missions.
Moments later, all 12 hooks retracted as expected to firmly lock the Crew Dragon in place, kicking off leak checks to verify an airtight structural seal.
Hatches were opened about two hours after docking and the crew finally floated into the space station and welcomed aboard by Crew-5 commander Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Anna Kikina, along with Soyuz MS-22/23 fliers Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio
“Hello, everybody. I’m so glad (we’re) here (with) our friends,” station commander Prokopyev, speaking English, said in a welcome ceremony. “This is amazing to see your smiles here, and we’re looking forward to work together. And Steve, Sultan, Andrey, Woody, my congratulations for join(ing) us.”
He also congratulated the Crew Dragon’s three rookie fliers.
“This is an important part of your life,” he said. “Andrey became cosmonaut, Woody and Sultan astronauts. So they’re real astronauts now! I wish you good wellness here and a happy flight. Looking forward to work together.”
Said Bowen: “I’m looking forward to spending the next six months working on board and sending Crew-5 home for a well-deserved rest after some hard work.”
Crew-6 is replacing Mann, Cassada, Wakata and Kikina, who launched to the station last October. They’ll spend about five days familiarizing their replacements with the intricacies of station operations before strapping into their own Crew Dragon, undocking and returning to Earth around March 9 to close out a 154-day mission.
“Excited to get you guys on board, and not just because we get to go home after that,” Cassada radioed the Crew-6 Dragon during the final stages of the rendezvous.
“We agree, we’ll be happy to send you home,” Bowen replied. “And look forward to seeing you this afternoon, this morning, this evening, whatever it happens to be.”
Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio were launched to the lab last September and originally planned to fly home later this month.
But their Soyuz MS-22 ferry ship was crippled December 14 when a presumed micrometeoroid ruptured a coolant line. They’ll now ride a replacement Soyuz back to Earth. But to get the crew rotation schedule back on track, the trio will have to spend an additional six months in space, coming home this fall after a full year in orbit.