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Excitement Builds for Berthing of SpaceX's Dragon to ISS Tomorrow - See Timeline of Activities

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 24-May-2012
Updated: 24-May-2012 10:35 PM

SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully completed a series of tests in preparation for berthing with the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow.  An approximate timeline of events follows.

NASA will have live coverage beginning at 2:00 am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).  SpaceX's coverage begins at 7:30 am EDT.

Two of the six ISS crew members, NASA's Don Pettit and Europe's Andre Kuipers, are scheduled to grapple Dragon with Canada's robotic arm "Canadarm2" at 8:06 am EDT.   They will pull Dragon into one of the ISS docking ports -- a procedure called berthing -- at about 11:20 am.   A press conference is scheduled for 1:00 pm.

Over the past two days, Dragon successfully performed a series of test manuevers to demonstrate it could operate safely in the vicinity of the ISS.   Video of Dragon coming close the ISS is available on YouTube.  As the NASA announcer comments, it is the first time a U.S. spacecraft has gotten close to the ISS since the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, last summer.  NASA has had no ability to send cargo or people to the ISS since the shuttle program was terminated last year.  If this mission is successful, it could presage a new "commercial cargo" era, although it will be several years before companies like SpaceX can launch people to the ISS.

Dragon approached the ISS to a distance of 2.4 kilometers today and the ISS crew successfully established a communications link with the spacecraft. 

SpaceX said in an emailed press statement tonight that NASA will make a decision at 5:00 am EDT tomorrow if Dragon is "go" to move closer to the ISS -- to 1.4 kilometers.  If that goes well, about an hour later Dragon will come to within 250 meters.  If that goes well, Dragon will be given permission to close in on the ISS allowing the astronauts to grapple it just after 9:00 am EDT (NASA says 8:06 am), with berthing at 11:20 am.

Amost a day later, at 5:00 am EDT Saturday, the ISS crew will begin procedures to open the hatch between Dragon and ISS, which should take 2 hours.  NASA's coverage that day will begin at 5:30 am EST and includes a crew news conference at 11:25 am.

Here is a summary timeline based on information from NASA and SpaceX.  All times are approximate and EDT.

Friday, May 25

  • 2:00 am, NASA coverage begins
  • 5:00 am, NASA decides if Dragon can move to 1.4 km from ISS
  • 6:00 am, NASA decides if Dragon can move to 250 m
  • 7:30 am, SpaceX coverage begins
  • 8:06 am, astronauts grapple Dragon with Canadarm 2
  • 11:20 am, Dragon berthed to ISS

Saturday, May 26

  • 5:00 am, procedures to open hatch begin
  • 5:30 am, NASA coverage begins
  • 11:25 am, crew news conference


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