Space Station Berths a Dragon, Again
During the second NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday morning (March 3, 2013), Canadian astronaut, soon-to-be ISS commander and hugely popular orbital Twitter user Chris Hadfield kept tabs on the Dragon berthing. Here are the stunning views he captured during the successful capture. Here, the Dragon capsule is grappled by the station's robotic arm -- an instrument designed and built by MDA Space Missions for the Canadian Space Agency. "Tonight's Finale: A Dragon, snared and tamed by Canadarm2. Saint George ringing in a new era in the silence of space," Hadfield tweeted. Here are some more views shared by Hadfield with the world via his Twitter account, @Cmdr_Hadfield.
The Canadarm2 awaits the arrival of the Dragon capsule. The robotic arm is the primary component of the space station's Mobile Servicing System (MSS) that was installed in 2001. The Canadarm2 provides support to astronauts on board the station -- berthing spacecraft, providing maintenance services and moving equipment around the station's exterior. "Canadarm2, proud builder of the International Space Station, in preparation for the successful grabbing of a Dragon," tweeted Hadfield.
"Dragon comes into view - first sight this morning, sneaking up on us from behind the Progress solar array," tweeted Hadfield, referring to one of the solar panels of the docked Russian Progress cargo vehicle.
"Self-portrait in the Cupola with rising Dragon below, Africa behind."
As the Dragon approached the space station, there were plenty of photo ops for the astronauts. "The Dragon spaceship high over Mount Etna - both spitting fire," said Hadfield as the spacecraft passed over the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft over the Sahara Desert before space station berthing on March 3, 2013.
"Like a Praying Mantis, Canadarm2 poised to reach out and grab Dragon."
"Success! Canadarm2 holds Dragon by the nose, to drag it up and hook it on to a Station hatch," said Hadfield via his Twitter account when the Dragon was snared at 5:31 am EST Sunday morning.
At 5:31 am EST Sunday morning, International Space Station astronauts guided the Canadarm2 robotic arm to an earlier-than-scheduled grappling maneuver with the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The grapple was scheduled for 6:31 am ET. At 8:56 am EST, the robotic arm guided the capsule for installation onto the Earth-facing port of the space station’s Harmony module.
The approach and berthing of the unmanned Dragon — carrying over 2,300 lb (1,000 kilograms) of supplies as part of a NASA resupply contract to the space station — came after the private spaceflight company successfully overcame problems with three of four thruster pods that cast the mission into doubt shortly after launch on Friday.
When a spacecraft berths with the International Space Station, it does so under the guidance of the station’s robotic arm. This differs from a docking maneuver that is carried out solely under the spacecraft’s guidance. The planned manned Dragon missions will dock (not berth) with the orbiting outpost.
“SpaceX is proud to execute this important work for NASA, and we’re thrilled to bring this capability back to the United States,” Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX, said shortly after Dragon berthing. “Today’s launch continues SpaceX’s long-term partnership with NASA to provide reliable, safe transport of cargo to and from the station, enabling beneficial research and advancements in technology and research.”
This is the second of 12 SpaceX resupply missions to the space station under a $1.6 billion NASA contract.
More on this SpaceX Dragon resupply mission:
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Cleared for Docking
Elon Musk: SpaceX Dragon ‘Back on Track’
SpaceX Working to Save Dragon Mission
Image credit: NASA TV