SpaceX Crew Dragon successfully docks with the ISS

SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon spacecraft called at Crew-2 has successfully docked with the ISS. The docking happened early this morning and placed four new astronauts from three different countries aboard the space station. The docking and greeting ceremony marks the start of the new crewmembers' six-month stay in space.

Crew-2 is the third ever crewed flight from SpaceX and was the first to use a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket and previously flown Dragon spacecraft. The launch occurred at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday morning and took about 24 hours, moving in orbit at about 17,000 miles per hour to reach the ISS.

The orbit the ISS is in puts it about 250 miles above the surface of Earth. Astronauts aboard Crew-2 included Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur from NASA, Thomas Pesquet from the ESA, and Akihiko Hoshide from JAXA. While in orbit, the crew will conduct all manner of scientific experiments.

A prime focus for the mission will be research on so-called "tissue chips" which are small models of human organs that have multiple cell types that behave just as they do inside the human body. NASA hopes research in orbit will help advance the development of drugs and vaccines. The four new astronauts joined seven astronauts already aboard the ISS. Four of the current crew depart on the other SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule currently attached to the ISS in November.

With 11 astronauts aboard, the current crew is one of the largest ever aboard the ISS. However, the crew will return to seven on April 28 when four of the astronauts currently onboard head back home aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX will have competition for placing cargo and astronauts on the ISS in the future, with Boeing and its Starliner capsule still in the testing phase.