You can dock a SpaceX Crew Dragon at the space station in this free simulator

If you always wanted to pilot a spaceship, here's your big chance to simulate the experience.

SpaceX released an International Space Station docking simulator that is very close to the real thing that Crew Dragon astronauts may experience starting on the test flight scheduled for May 27.

"This simulator will familiarize you with the controls of [the] actual interface used by NASA astronauts to manually pilot the SpaceX Dragon 2 vehicle to the International Space Station," SpaceX says, using an older name for the vehicle, in its instructions for the simulator available here.

Related: SpaceX is already prepping for 1st operational Crew Dragon mission

SpaceX's Crew Dragon docking simulator puts you in control of a rendezvous with the International Space Station. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The simulator shows parameters such as distance, roll, pitch and yaw, along with green numbers that show corrections that are necessary to reach the space station. (A successful docking will occur when all the displayed correction numbers are below 0.2, SpaceX says.) Also watch for blue numbers, which are the rates (or speed) that you are translating or rotating in space.

When flying, aim for the green diamond that is marked on the docking adapter. As for real astronauts, SpaceX says it is best to be precise in your movements and not to make large, sudden moves — just in case you miss the space station completely or accidentally crash into it. SpaceX advises that when you are less than 16 feet (5 meters) from the space station, keep your rate below minus 0.6 feet per second (minus 0.2 meters per second), as measured by the internal display.

SpaceX also released a video on Twitter showing a mock astronaut going through the docking experience with the software. An automated voice reminds the crew to keep safety in mind, including lowering the visors of their helmets, before undertaking the operation — which is a nod to how astronauts plan out their procedures in space.

In real life, SpaceX added, the procedure will be optional. "Crew Dragon missions will autonomously dock and undock with the space station, but crew can take manual control of the spacecraft if necessary," according to a company statement.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will pilot Crew Dragon's first mission, a test flight scheduled to launch on May 27. If all goes smoothly, a crew of four astronauts will be aboard the next Crew Dragon to head to the space station. 

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.  

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • kristiancampbell
    is there only 1 accessible dock on the iss spacex sim :(
  • Griffin
    I was surprised to FAIL.

    Zero Roll, Pitch and Yaw.
    Zero error Y and Z.
    Approached from 5 metres at -0.12 m/s