Demo-2 docking with ISS
The Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour docked with the ISS at 10:16 a.m. Eastern May 31. Credit: NASA TV

WASHINGTON — A Crew Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station May 31, less than a day after making history as the first human orbital spaceflight from the United States in nearly nine years.

The spacecraft, named Endeavour by its crew of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, docked with the station’s Harmony module at 10.16 a.m. Eastern. The spacecraft’s approach to the ISS went smoothly, with docking taking place nearly 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

“It’s been a real honor to be be just a small part of this nine-year endeavor since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” said Hurley moments after docking, thanking NASA and SpaceX for their efforts developing the Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of NASA’s commercial crew program.

Behnken and Hurley opened hatches and entered the ISS at 1:22 p.m. Eastern, joining NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 at 3:22 p.m. Eastern May 30, marking the first crewed orbital launch from the United States since the final space shuttle mission, STS-135, in July 2011. Behnken and Hurley said in a brief NASA TV session early May 31 that the spacecraft was working well.

That included using the manual controls of the spacecraft, which ordinarily operates autonomously. “I want to complement the teams at Hawthorne. Just a spectacular job with the simulator as the vehicle flew exactly like the simulators out in Hawthorne,” Hurley said, referring to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Behnken, though, noted that those simulators weren’t able to fully capture the experience of launch. “Doug and I were talking about all of the observations that we had all the way uphill,” he said. “While it was an exciting ride, I think we got a couple of minor surprises, just in terms of the way the vehicle is moving and shaking.”

While docking took place only 19 hours after liftoff, the two astronauts said they were able to test various aspects of the spacecraft, including the ability to sleep inside the capsule. “Doug and I had a good night’s sleep last night,” Behnken said. “We were surprised, I think, at how well we actually slept aboard the vehicle.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...