NASA preps space station to handle more space taxis

Astronauts set for Friday spacewalk to begin assembling 2 new space docks

international space station

The International Space Station is getting new space docks, and two U.S. astronauts are to scheduled to perform spacewalks to get the orbiter ready for them.

Credit: NASA
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On Friday, two astronauts will begin the first of a series of spacewalks designed to ready the International Space Station to handle a growing number of space taxis ferrying supplies and humans to the orbiter.

NASA's Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts will head outside of the station at 7:10 a.m. ET tomorrow for a six-and-a-half hour spacewalk. They are scheduled to begin preparing cables and communication gear for two new docking ports, according to NASA.

Astronauts will also conduct spacewalks on Tuesday, Feb. 24, and Sunday, March 1, to continue their work on the space docks.

This is the first time in several years that NASA and its international partners working on the space station have reworked the design of the orbiter.

They are preparing for an increased number of spacecraft expected to carry food, water, scientific experiments and supplies to the space station. However, the extra space docks largely will be needed because in 2017, US.-based commercial companies are expected to begin carrying astronauts back and forth to the orbiting station.

NASA has awarded contracts to SpaceX, which already is running resupply missions to the station, along with Boeing, to build and operate human space taxis.

The space agency is looking to no longer have to depend on Russia and its Soyuz space capsules to carry NASA astronauts to and from the space station. The U.S. has been dependent on Russia since NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in 2011.

NASA noted that a pair of docking adapters, built by Boeing, will be installed on the new docking spaces after they are carried up to the station on a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft later this year.

Making room for more spacecraft to dock with the station should enable the orbiter to be home to seven astronauts, instead of the traditional six, according to the space agency.

NASA TV is scheduled to provide coverage of Friday's spacewalk, beginning at 6 a.m.

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