SpaceX‘s Dragon capsule is preparing to make its historic first dock with the International Space Station, the next step in the privatization of space flight. Having successfully blasted off earlier this week, and completed a test fly-by yesterday, Dragon is currently a few football pitch-lengths away from the ISS as astronauts test the safety protocols that could prevent an inadvertent collision. You can watch along after the cut.
“The SpaceX Dragon capsule has resumed its approach toward the International Space Station from a distance of 250 meters. It will head up to 235 meters, at which point the crew will begin to issue a series of retreat commands, testing the capability to abort at the rendezvous if required. This process will continue until Dragon reaches the 30-meter mark” NASA
SpaceX shared a photo from the Dragon capsule’s camera, of the spacecraft nearing the ISS. The approach will be followed by several tests of the abort and retreat commands, which will prevent the capsule from nearing the space station should anything begin to look awry.
Of course, the ISS has cameras of its own, and NASA snapped an image of the capsule in its 250m hold position. That’s just outside of the so-called “keep out sphere” zone around the ISS.
Testing of the retreat codes will continue on and off until the capsule is 30m away from the ISS. Then, as long as everything has gone to plan, the final docking process will be initiated. As long as that completes as expected, SpaceX will be able to begin its next step in running supply missions from Earth to the ISS, of which NASA has contracted twelve.