After launching this Tuesday at 3:44 Eastern Daylight Time, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is now in its third day of low-Earth orbit. The company reports that everything has been going smoothly so far, with “a series of milestones” having been set as the vehicle approaches the International Space Station (ISS).
Along with successfully deploying its solar arrays soon after reaching orbit, the Dragon has also demonstrated its Absolute Global Positioning System, both a pulsed and a full abort, and free drift flight – this involves its simply floating freely in orbit, so it can be grappled by the space station’s robotic arm when the time comes. Its proximity operations sensors and COTS UHF Communication Unit (CUCU) are also operational, and appear to be in good working order.
The spacecraft fired its thrusters this morning, bringing it to a distance of 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) below the ISS. It subsequently demonstrated its Relative GPS, and used the CUCU to establish a communications link with the station.
It is now heading into its final approach location, with its actual docking at the space station scheduled for approximately 6:00 AM Pacific/9:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time, tomorrow. The Dragon can be seen – just barely – in the video below, shot by astronauts aboard the ISS.