Suppose a spacecraft lifted off from the space center and within few minutes after reaching the 200 kilometers altitude on its way to the ISS, and for some reason the crew were incapacitated. Will the spacecraft still be able to dock to the ISS or would the ground team be able to get it back to the Earth?

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    $\begingroup$ unmanned cargo vessels exist $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Dec 1, 2020 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ @JCRM Yes, but that doesn't imply the same technology is employed on crewed vehicles. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2020 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ It depends on which spacecraft, you need to specify. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Dec 1, 2020 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ given the capability exists, it'd be a strange choice not to use it @user2705196. The manned Soyuz doesn't have the backup option of being controlled from the station, it uses crew for that. $\endgroup$
    – user20636
    Dec 2, 2020 at 2:46
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    $\begingroup$ related but not duplicate because Dragon-only: Did the people aboard SpaceX Dragon Crew-1 flight pilot the Dragon or were they just passengers? answer: "Dragon 2 is fully autonomous. It has to be because the same platform is used for crew and cargo missions, and obviously, there is no crew on a cargo mission." $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Dec 2, 2020 at 3:18

1 Answer 1


All of the current crew vehicles dock themselves under normal circumstances, but they do allow the meat cargo to override the procedure if they want to.

Russia's Soyuz and Progress vehicles are designed to dock themselves at the International Space Station using an automated rendezvous system called Kurs.


SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft glided to a smooth automated docking Monday night at the International Space Station, delivering four astronauts.


Soyuz MS-14 and SpaceX Demo-1 were unmanned missions of the crew vehicles which successfully docked. Boeing didn't manage to dock theirs yet.

Ground control would also be able to command the vehicles to return to Earth. An earlier version of Soyuz has unfortunately demonstrated a landing with incapacitated crew.


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