Sunday, May 27, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Has Done IT!

SpaceX Dragon, world's first private spacecraft, has been captured by the International Space Station's robotic arm, and has grappled the Dragon spacecraft to the Harmony module on the space station.

Quoting astronaut Don Pettit who operated the robotic arm:  “Looks like we’ve got a Dragon by the tail.”

Pettit's successful capture of the Dragon cause SpaceX Hawthorne headquarters and NASA's Houston Mission Control to errupt in cheers.

It was not a smooth approach according to the article in (see link below in Ref Section). Problem with Dragon's thermal camera kept the spacecraft holding at the 250 meter point away from the ISS.  Then there was the interaction between the thermal camera and the on-board LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors.

Several times, SpaceX approached the ISS only to issue a retreat due to the sensor information they were getting.  Basically getting stray LIDAR signals coming off of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module on the station.  Future correction for this problem would be to put on "blinders" to limit the Dragon's LIDAR so it could only see "straight ahead."

Eventually, Dragon was finally brought in to the 30 meter point and then the 10 meter point where it could be caputured by the station's robotic arm.

Now the ISS crew will be unloading the 1,014 pounds(460 kilogram) cargo from the capsule and the station in turn will load up nearly 1,367 pounds (620 kilograms) of return to earth cargo.

Dragon is expected to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on May 31st if all goes to plan.

1. Wired. "ISS Welcomes SpaceX Dragon — First Private Spacecraft at Station" by Jason Paur. May 25, 2012. ( ). images from same article.

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