Today SpaceX Dragon docked securely to International Space Station Harmony module. It is third visit of the spacecraft on ISS during last two weeks.
At 11:31 GMT Dragon reached 63 m distance and started final approach to keeping point on 30 m from flying over South Africa International Space Station. Reaching keeping point was estimated for 11:40 GMT. Tim Peake (ESA) sat to console located in Cupola ISS module to operate Canadarm2 robotic arm as primary operator, with Jeff Williams (NASA) as support operator. At 11:52 GMT everything was set for go and Dragon started final approach. Punctually at 12:00 GMT Dragon started final approach to ISS from 30 m while Station flight over south east China. Dragon continued approaching with only nine minutes to orbital sunset – if it would not manage to reach capture point docking would be halted. At 12:14 GMT Dragon reached capture point (approx. 10 m away from ISS) and Tim Peake waited for final confirmation to start moving Canadarm2 to grab spacecraf. Tim Peake reported that is ready – SpaceX control center gave agreement along with flight control at 12:16 GMT. After five minutes later, according to procedure, Tim Peake decided to start moving Canadarm2 to remaining stable course Dragon. At two minutes later robotic arm reached 1 m distance from Dragon. At 12:23 first contact between arm and Dragon appeared and grapple was confirmed – spacecraft was caught while International Space Station flew over Hawaii.
Berthing of the CRS-8 Dragon was finally performed at 13:57 GMT to Earth facing port of Harmony module. From that moment to International Space Station would be docked six spacecrafts (last time such situation took place during last mission of Discovery Space Shuttle during STS-133 in February 2011): Dragon CRS-8, Cygnus OA-6, Progress-MS 63 and Progress-MS 62, Soyuz TMA-19M and Soyuz TMA-20M. It will be first time when two commercial resupply spacecrafts are berthed in same time to ISS.
Main payload of the Dragon, BEAM inflatable experimental module by Bigelow Aerospace will be extracted from Dragon unpressurized cargo section by Canadarm2 on 16th April 2016 and attached to Tranquility module, to its aft berthing port. It will be inflated to its full capacity until 26th May 2016 and seven days later first astronauts could enter the module. BEAM will remain attached to ISS for two years.