New front door paves way for space sta­tion ar­rivals

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - NATION & WORLD - By Mar­cia Dunn

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. >> Spacewalking as­tro­nauts in­stalled a new front door for vis­i­tors at the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion on Fri­day, the cru­cial first step in wel­com­ing com­mer­cial crew cap­sules as soon as next year.

The two Amer­i­cans, Jef­frey Wil­liams and Kate Ru­bins, hooked up the dock­ing port — their ma­jor ob­jec­tive — in just a few hours.

They were about to tackle some ex­tra chores, but a prob­lem cropped up with the right ear­piece in Wil­liams’ hel­met and he had trou­ble hear­ing. Mis­sion Con­trol de­cided to play it safe and bring them in­side about a half-hour early. The space­walk con­cluded at the six-hour mark.

“We’re done for the day,” Mis­sion Con­trol ad­vised the crew.

The sta­tion’s new gate­way ar­rived last month, packed in the trunk of a SpaceX Dragon cargo cap­sule.

Amer­i­cans haven’t rock­eted into or­bit from their home turf since NASA’s last shut­tle flight in 2011. SpaceX and Boe­ing ex­pect to re­sume hu­man launches from Cape Canaveral in an­other year or two. But their crew cap­sules can’t dock with­out this new-style park­ing spot, which re­places the now ob­so­lete shut­tle setup and is meant to be in­ter­na­tion­ally com­pat­i­ble.

Fri­day’s suc­cess paved the way for these fu­ture space­ships.

“Thanks for your help in get­ting the front door on the space sta­tion,” Mis­sion Con­trol ra­dioed.

SpaceX is shoot­ing for a test flight of its souped-up Dragon with two as­tro­nauts as early as a year from now. Boe­ing is aim­ing for a two-per­son shake­down of its Star­liner cap­sule in early 2018. Un­til then Rus­sia will keep pro­vid­ing all the rides — at a hefty price for U.S. tax­pay­ers.

NASA started us­ing pri­vate U.S. com­pa­nies to carry out cargo ship­ments a few years back. Com­mer­cial crew launches will be an even big­ger ad­vance. This com­mer­cial hand­off is free­ing up NASA to fo­cus on true outer-space ex­plo­ration; the space agency is work­ing to get as­tro­nauts to Mars in the 2030s.

This is ac­tu­ally NASA’s sec­ond new dock­ing ring. The first was de­stroyed in a SpaceX launch ac­ci­dent last sum­mer. NASA ul­ti­mately wants two of these 3-1/2-by-5-foot-on-the-in­side park­ing places at the lab. An­other one — cob­bled to­gether from spare parts — should fly up in about a year.


The Canadarm 2 reaches out to the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft for dock­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion. SpaceX is shoot­ing for a test flight of its souped-up Dragon as early as a year from now.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.