NASA astronauts install new docking ports at ISS
Washington: The first of the two new docking ports for commercial space ships were installed by NASA astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS), the US space agency reported.
During a spacewalk of 5 hours and 58 minutes on Friday, astronauts Jeff Williams, Commander of the 48th expedition and flight engineer Kate Rubins, fixed the first two points of the International Docking Adapter (IDA), EFE news reported.
The IDA’s will be used for future arrivals of manned commercial aircraft from Boeing and SpaceX, developed under the NASA manned commercial programme, the agency said in a statement.
The installation will give NASA an independent access to the ISS for the first time since the withdrawal of its fleet of space shuttles in 2011.
So far, NASA depends on the Russian Soyuz vessels.
Jeff Williams said in a statement that the IDA has opened a new chapter in the history of the ISS enabling the access for future commercial vehicles.
The new docking mechanism was transported in June to the ISS aboard a Dragon capsule by California-based private firm SpaceX, after the first IDA was lost during the launch failure of a SpaceX flight in June 2015.
According to NASA, commercial flights from Florida to the ISS will increase the time for US crews to devote to scientific research and help prepare astronauts for deeper space missions, including possible travel to Mars.