Crew Dragon ISS docking
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft as seen by the International Space Station shortly before its March 3 docking. Credit: NASA TV

Updated 8:20 a.m. Eastern with hatch opening.

ORLANDO — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully docked with the International Space Station March 3, a little more than a day after its launch from Florida.

The spacecraft made an initial “soft capture” with the docking port on the station’s Harmony module at 5:51 a.m. Eastern. The docking mechanisms then pulled Dragon into a firm “hard capture” with the station about 10 minutes later.

“Congratulations to all of the teams on a successful docking,” Anne McClain, the NASA astronaut currently on the station, said shortly after the spacecraft docked.

The docking took place 27 hours after a Falcon 9 rocket launched Crew Dragon into orbit to start its first test flight. The spacecraft encountered no serious issues as it approached the station, executing a series of maneuvers including one where, at a distance of 150 meters from the station, it halted its approach and retreated to 180 meters to test the ability to back away from the station in the event of a problem.

Hatches between the spacecraft and station were opened at 8:07 a.m. Eastern. McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques started an initial review of the condition of the spacecraft and began unloading more than 180 kilograms of cargo included in the spacecraft.

Crew Dragon will remain docked to the station until early March 8. Dragon will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast at approximately 8:45 a.m. Eastern that day, where SpaceX vessels will recover the spacecraft and return it to Cape Canaveral.

This Demo-1 mission is a critical test of the spacecraft, confirming the performance of its key systems and identifying any issues that need to be corrected before a crewed test flight, Demo-2, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. That mission is currently scheduled for launch no earlier than July, with both NASA and SpaceX expecting it will launch before the end of the year.

Behnken and Hurley, who attended the Demo-1 launch at the Kennedy Space Center, were at SpaceX mission control at its Hawthorne, California, headquarters for the Crew Dragon docking. Behnken, interviewed on NASA TV after the docking, said it was “super exciting” to see the spacecraft successfully dock to station. “It’s just one more milestone that gets us ready for our flight,” he said.

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...