ISS crew members install second Commercial Crew docking port during spacewalk

NASA astronauts complete a spacewalk to install a new docking port for Commercial Crew capsules.

International Space Station (ISS) crew members Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan successfully installed a new international docking adapter (IDA) during a six-hour and 32-minute spacewalk, according to a NASA report.

SpaceX delivered the new IDA-3 equipment to the space station via the Dragon Cargo capsule’s CRS-18 mission last month. Both Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceships will arrive and depart from the ISS via the new port.

Spacewalk Success

Hague and Morgan began prepping for their spacewalk last week. The pair of NASA astronauts serviced their spacesuits. They also reviewed procedures for their ISS exit and duties outside of the orbiting laboratory.

As the Expedition 60 crew slept on Tuesday, the Canadarm2 robotic controller grabbed and extracted the IDA-3 from the trunk of the Dragon Cargo craft and positioned it at the Harmony module’s space-facing port for pre-installation inspection. Boeing built the new docking system, which reportedly replaces the IDA-1 adapter that was destroyed during a failed 2015 SpaceX launch. The new IDA is one of two docking systems now in place at the space station.

Yesterday, the spacewalkers switched their spacesuits to internal battery power at 8:27 a.m. ET and departed the ISS via the Quest airlock. During the six-and-a-half-hour operation in space, Hague and Morgan connected the IDA power and data cables to the space station.

This procedure enabled NASA astronaut Christina Koch to close 12 hooks from inside the station. The closure established a firm connection between the IDA-3 and the station’s Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 (PMA-3).

The ISS shared video footage of the astronauts working during the spacewalk on Twitter.

Hague and Morgan also routed cables for wireless internet connectivity aboard the ISS. The spacewalk concluded at 2:59 p.m. ET. The endeavor marked Morgan’s first career spacewalk and Hague’s third. It was also the fifth spacewalk completed from the space station in 2019.

Welcoming Future Commercial Crew Ships

Yesterday’s spacewalk plays a vital role in furthering NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and its goal of once again launching astronauts into space from U.S. soil. Adding the new docking port enables Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules to connect to the ISS simultaneously. Each capsule will reside at one of the two ports.

As The Burn-In previously reported, SpaceX and NASA have recently conducted pre-launch simulations with designated Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The training exercises serve as preparation for the astronauts’ future history-making spaceflight to the ISS.

Overall, the U.S. space program is heating up as NASA and its partnering organizations continue to push towards landing humans on the moon by 2024 via the Artemis mission. Traveling to Mars and allowing civilian tourists to visit the ISS are another two of the agency’s aggressive interstellar goals for the future.