Take control of the Dragon 2 ship with the SpaceX simulator

Do you want to take control of the interface used by NASA astronauts to dock the Dragon 2 spacecraft with the International Space Station (ISS)? It is possible through ISS Docking Simulator de SpaceX.

The simulator was built on the basis of the designs created for SpaceX Crew Dragon Displays, which make it possible to manually pilot the vehicle to the ISS. Shane Mielke led everything related to UI/UX during the last three years of this project and explains that the simulator -which anyone can run from their computer- is also used by NASA as an educational resource for students of the grades 6 to 12.

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For context, the Dragon 2 is a reusable spacecraft manufactured by the American firm SpaceX and, unlike its predecessor, it has the ability to autonomously dock with the ISS. The question is: do you dare to manually “connect” it to the facility located in low Earth orbit?

How to get started with ISS Docking Simulator?

All you have to do is enter the site dedicated to the simulator (in English), carefully review the driving instructions and, finally, click on Begin.

The caveat is made that movement in space is slow and requires patience and precision.

General instructions

Once the simulator is started, the main interface stands out with a myriad of numerical indicators. The idea is that the green numbers are kept below 0.2 with the intention of achieving a successful coupling.

  • Rotation controls (on the right of the screen). They are the ones that correct the different axes of rotation, the first ones that are recommended to be used. And it is essential to be well oriented for a good link. Use the mouse or the keyboard arrows.
  • Position controls (on the left of the screen). After reviewing the rotation, these knobs make it easy to shift your position in various directions, including back and forth. Use the mouse or the keys W, A, S and D.
  • Precision levers. Both controls have this type of sticks (the default settings are small precise movements). The recommendation here is not to use long moves near the ISS.
  • green diamond. The objective is to “reach” this element; it must be centered on the interface for docking.
  • blue numbers. These indicate the speed (rotation and translation); the required rate to the ISS is at the bottom right.

On paper, it seems easy to achieve coupling, however, practice is essential to familiarize yourself with the controls and have a more or less stable handling. Whoever despairs can experience a crash or get so far away from the ISS that they fail the mission.

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