A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station Sunday (Aug. 27) to ferry a new astronaut crew to the orbiting lab to begin a half-year mission.
The Crew Dragon capsule Endurance docked at the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:16 a.m. EDT (1313 GMT), where it parked itself at a space-facing port on the outpost's U.S.-built Harmony module after flying a wide loop around the orbital outpost. Dragon and the station were soaring 261 miles above Australia at the time.
"Thank you so much," Crew-7 commander Jasmin Moghbeli of NASA radioed to SpaceX mission control after the successful docking. "I have to keep reminding myself that this is not a dream."
The docking marked the end of a nearly 30-hour journey for the capsule's four-person crew, which launched in the wee hours of Saturday from NASA's Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But it is also the start of something bigger, a six-month mission for Moghbeli and her three crewmates.
"This is the first step of the journey, the real mission begins now," Crew-7 pilot Andreas Mogensen of the European Space Agency radioed SpaceX. "Aboard the International Space Station, we have a lot of work ahead of us that we look forward to."
The Crew-7 astronauts opened between their Dragon and the ISS at 10:58 a.m. EDT (1458 GMT) to join the seven astronauts already aboard the station. All 11 astronauts then gathered for a short welcome ceremony to begin their joint mission.
SpaceX's Crew-7 mission for NASA sent Moghbeli to the ISS with a truly international crew: pilot Mogensen of ESA; and mission specialists Konstantin Borisov of Russia's Roscosmos agency and Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The quartet is the first all-international crew, with members from four different agencies and countries, to fly on the same Dragon capsule.
The mission is the seventh operational commercial crew flight for NASA by SpaceX, and the company's eighth for the U.S. space agency overall (including a crewed test flight). It is SpaceX's 11th crewed mission when including three private astronaut flights in recent years. SpaceX is one of two private companies with multibillion-dollar contracts to fly astronauts to the ISS for NASA. (Boeing is the other, with its first crewed test flight delayed to early 2024.)
The Crew-7 astronauts will spend six months on the space station and relieve the four astronauts of NASA's Crew-6 mission, who are due to return to Earth on Sept. 2.
Crew-7 is the first spaceflight for Moghbeli, a U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who became the second Iranian-American to fly in space on the flight. It is also Borisov's first flight.
While Morgensen and Furukawa have both flown to the ISS before, Morgensen is the first European ever to pilot a SpaceX Dragon capsule. SpaceX's Endurance capsule is also a space veteran, having flown the Crew-3 and Crew-5 astronaut missions to the station for NASA.
NASA and SpaceX included a special treat for Crew-7's arrival at the ISS on Sunday.
"We're gonna do a fly-around of the International Space Station and get some cool photos, and get that out to everybody to show what an awesome outpost we have," Joel Montalbano, NASA's space station program manager, told reporters after the launch.
That fly-aroundalso allowed cameras on the space station to capture spectacular views of the Dragon Endurance capsule with the blue Earth in the background.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:30 am on Aug. 27 to reflect the successful docking of SpaceX's Crew-7 Dragon capsule with its four astronaut crew.