NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday aboard the first commercially built and operated American spacecraft to carry humans to orbit, opening a new era in human spaceflight.
The pair of astronauts docked to the space station’s Harmony module at 16:16 pm GMT Sunday.
Behnken and Hurley, the first astronauts to fly to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the station, were welcomed as crew members of Expedition 63 by fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
“It’s been a real honor to be be just a small part of this nine-year endeavor since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” said Hurley moments after docking, thanking NASA and SpaceX for their efforts developing the Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of NASA’s commercial crew program.
The docking followed the first successful launch of Crew Dragon with astronauts on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 8:22 pm GMT Saturday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space in Florida, the same launch pad used for the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission.
After reaching orbit, Behnken and Hurley named their Crew Dragon spacecraft “Endeavour” as a tribute to the first space shuttle each astronaut had flown aboard. Endeavour also flew the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle Program, launching in May 2011 from the same pad.
This flight, known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, is an end-to-end test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard, and will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.