Written by Anna Seils
Washington, D.C. – Change is on the horizon for the International Space Station as three upcoming spacewalks prepare the orbiting laboratory for future arrivals by U.S. commercial crew spacecraft.
The spacewalks are designed to lay cables along the forward end of the U.S. segment to bring power and communication to two International Docking Adapters slated to arrive later this year. The new docking ports will welcome U.S. commercial spacecraft launching from Florida beginning in 2017, permitting the standard station crew size to grow from six to seven and potentially double the amount of crew time devoted to research.
The third of the three space walks will see the installation of two new communication antennas on opposite ends of the station’s truss to assist in the commercial crew vehicles approach for docking.
The spacewalks are planned for Saturday, February 21st; Wednesday, February 25th; and Sunday, March 1st, with Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts participating in all three.
“The challenge for the ISS is going to be continuing maturity over multiple decades of the station and what it will do for crew on the path to commercialization,” said Kenny Todd, International Space Station Operations Integration manager. “It’s fun, it’s exciting and we’re looking forward to transforming the station.”
The goal of these spacewalks is to prepare two berthing ports on the U.S. for the docking for commercial crew transport ships. The station has eight ports for cargo and crew total, including the U.S. and international segments.
All three EVAs will be performed in U.S. spacesuits, and will last around six and a half hours each.
Boeing and SpaceX were recently awarded Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contracts with NASA to develop solutions for U.S. astronaut transportation to and from the space station. After NASA crews begin fly with these contractors, it is expected to double the amount of time devoted to science in space from 40 hours to 80 hours per week.
U.S. commercial crew capabilities also could provide a faster turnaround to bring completed experiments from the orbiting laboratory back to Earth.
Boeing is working with NASA on its CST-100 spacecraft, which will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Boeing recently announced future projects including a pad abort test in February 2017, an orbital flight test in April 2017, and a crewed flight test with one Boeing test pilot and one NASA astronaut in July 2017.
The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.
The space station has been occupied continuously since November 2000. In that time, more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the orbiting laboratory. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.