Astronauts finish parking space maneuver with SpaceX Dragon capsule

Because things are getting crowded on the International Space Station, the astronauts who flew up to the station on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule last November had to move their ride to a new parking spot.

The four passengers who will be taking Crew Dragon Resilience back home later this month hopped into the Dragon capsule Monday morning to migrate it from one port on the ISS’s Harmony module to another.

It’s a first for NASA’s commercial crew program, but the shift from one module to another took place between 6:30 a.m. and 7:08 a.m. with NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi all in their seats, just like they plan to be when Resilience leaves.

Before it leaves though, the next SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is coming, slated to arrive after its launch on Thursday, April 22 from Kennedy Space Center with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

But why not just park the new Dragon capsule where Resilience just docked? It’s because later in summer, there’s a Dragon cargo mission coming bringing  some new solar arrays for the ISS. Those arrays will need to be extracted from the Dragon with the use of the Canadarm2, and it can only reach them if Dragon parks in that space-facing port.

So just a little shuffling was required.

Because the cargo and crew missions are getting up to full speed, it has left the other commercial crew partner, Boeing, looking for a new opportunity to fly its re-attempt of its Boeing CST-100 Starliner on an uncrewed mission to dock with the ISS. Plans were to have had it already launch to the ISS in March, but now NASA and Boeing managers are looking for an opportunity possibly in the summer

That would be followed by a crewed test flight later in 2021 before NASA signs off on it and Boeing can begin its rotation of six contracted flights to the station. SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission will be its second of its initial six contracted flights to the station.

Astronauts spend about six months on board before their return trip to Earth.


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