March 3 (Reuters) – A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule arrived safely at the International Space Station (ISS) after a brief delay early on Friday, carrying two U.S. astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and a United Arab Emirates astronaut on a six-month science mission .
The autonomously flying spacecraft called Endeavor docked with the space station just after 1:40 a.m. EST (0640 GMT) Friday, about 25 hours after liftoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The link was confirmed when the ISS and capsule flew in tandem at 17,500 miles per hour (28,164 km/h) about 250 miles (420 km) above Earth over the coast of East Africa, according to a live NASA webcast of the encounter.
Docking maneuvers fell off schedule as Crew Dragon was en route to the station.
SpaceX’s ground control team stopped the capsule 20 meters from the ISS for 23 minutes while confirming that all 12 locking hooks used to secure the capsule to the docking port were properly deployed, despite a faulty sensor indicating a possible malfunction.
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The problem was finally resolved after a software override activated by ground crews.
Upon arrival, the crew began conducting a standard series of leak checks and pressurizing the passage between the capsule and the ISS before hatches to the station’s interior could be opened, a process expected to take about two hours.
Once aboard, the four-member team faces a busy workload of more than 200 experiments and technology demonstrations, ranging from studying human cell growth in space to controlling combustible materials in microgravity.
Some of the research will help pave the way for future long-duration human expeditions to the Moon and beyond under NASA’s Artemis program, its successor to Apollo, the US space agency said.
The ISS crew is also responsible for performing maintenance and repairs aboard the station, and for preparing for the arrival and departure of other astronauts and payloads.
Designated Crew 6, the mission marks the sixth long-duration ISS crew that SpaceX has flown for NASA since the private rocket venture founded by billionaire Elon Musk began sending American astronauts into orbit in May 2020. Musk is CEO of electric car maker Tesla ( TSLA ). .O) and the social media platform Twitter.
The latest crew was led by Stephen Bowen, 59, a one-time U.S. Navy submarine officer who has logged more than 40 days in orbit as a veteran of three space shuttle flights and seven spacewalks. With NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg, 37, an electrical engineer, computer science expert and designated commercial pilot, made his first spacewalk.
The Crew 6 mission was also notable for its inclusion of UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, 41, the second person from his country to fly into space and the first to launch from US soil as part of a long-duration space station team.
Rounding out the four-man Crew 6 was the Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev (42), who, like Alneyadi, is an engineer and an aerospace rookie.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles. Editing by Gerry Doyle
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