Station astronauts prepare for SpaceX crew capsule move – Spaceflight Now

Astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi donned their SpaceX pressure suits for a fit check last week in preparation for the movement of the Crew Dragon “Resilience” spacecraft outside the International Space Station. . Credit: NASA / JAXA

Commander Mike Hopkins and his three teammates will board their Crew Dragon “Resilience” capsule on Monday for a first maneuver to move the SpaceX-owned spacecraft to a new docking port outside the International Space Station.

Hopkins and pilot Victor Glover will be joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi and NASA mission specialist Shannon Walker for the 45-minute maneuver to reposition the Crew Dragon spacecraft. They will be adapted in their white pressure garments made by SpaceX, just like any other docking or undocking to the space station.

The docking port swap on Monday will be the first time that a SpaceX crew capsule has performed a relocation maneuver.

“We’re very excited about this,” Hopkins said on Friday.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft has changed docking port to the International Space Station 19 times, most recently on March 19.

“There’s a big difference between how Soyuz does it and we do it,” Hopkins told Spaceflight Now in an interview last year. “Soyuz does all of this manually, and it should be automated. However, we have the ability to take over and do it manually if we need to. “

Hopkins’ crew launched on November 15 aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which they named Resilience, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, kicking off the first fully operational flight of a SpaceX crew capsule. Their mission, known as Crew-1, docked with the International Space Station the next day.

The Crew Dragon Resilience slid into a smooth docking with the space station’s Harmony module forward port, the same location once used by visiting space shuttles. Monday’s relocation maneuver will park the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft at an identical docking port on the top, or zenith side, of the Harmony module.

Ground controllers at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., Planned to activate and check the systems on the Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday.

“Sunday is going to be very busy before we move on to the port,” said Steve Stich, director of NASA’s commercial crew program. “We’re going to wake up Dragon. It has been largely at rest for those four and a half months (since docking). “

On day 141 of their mission, Hopkins, Glover, Noguchi and Walker will float in their spaceship early Monday and close the hatches between the Crew Dragon and the space station.

The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the space station at 6.30am EDT (10.30am GMT). A few minutes before the capsule detaches from the dock, an automated control will begin the process of disconnecting the electrical umbilicals and opening the hooks to allow the Crew Dragon to exit the docking port.

“What’s interesting is that it’s really a combination of four different flight phases that we have with the vehicle. So there’s the standard undocking, which we’ll go through all the same steps – we’ll be accommodated – all the same checks as we would on the normal undocking day, ”Hopkins said. “We have just placed a flag that tells the vehicle that it will be a move as opposed to a normal undocking.”

The capsule will retreat to a distance of about 200 feet, or 60 meters, according to Stich, and use its Draco thrusters to fly from a position in front of the space station to a location above the complex.

“Then there is a phase after this undocking where… the relative navigation systems have to reacquire, and so this is a critical phase,” he said. “Once that is done, we are then in a position to prepare for this port relocation room. And then, once we’ve ordered the port relocation part to begin with, you go from that front anchor axis to the zenith anchor axis. At this point, it’s like normal docking.

The Crew Dragon’s computers will guide the pod to an automatic connection with the Harmony module zenith port at 7:15 a.m. EDT (11:15 GMT).

Much like the Soyuz crews leaving for a relocation maneuver, the Dragon astronauts will be ready to return to Earth if there is any problem reconnecting with the space station.

“In that very short period of time we have three or four different phases of flight going on and you still have this potential that if something goes wrong when attempting to dock you might end up coming home. “said Hopkins. “So we have to be ready to go home as well.

“So it’s a very interesting part of the flight, and we’re very happy to have the opportunity to do it because I think it will be difficult, but I think it will be a great ability to add, especially with the number of different vehicle types that we have coming in the near future, ”Hopkins told Spaceflight Now.

A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station on November 17 with the Crew-1 astronauts. Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who was aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft when it swapped docking ports last month, said the relocation was “not just a journey of approval”.

“It’s all the fun and hard work of the day off docking, plus all the fun and hard work of the mooring day,” said Rubins, speaking of his recent experience. “It’s a lot of activity. But it’s pretty cool, and it’s a pretty amazing sight to part with your vehicle that has been your home for months and be able to look at it from 60 meters away.

The move on Monday will pave the way for SpaceX’s next crew mission to dock at the forward position on the Harmony module. SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission mission, slated to launch on April 22 from the Kennedy Space Center, will carry Commander Shane Kimbrough, pilot Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Hopkins and his teammates are scheduled to end their mission on April 28 with a departure from the space station and a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, culminating in a parachute-assisted dive off the coast of Florida.

Their undocking on April 28 will then clear the upper port of the Harmony module for the arrival of the next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission scheduled for launch on June 3. NASA wants the Dragon freighter to dock at the zenith port of Harmony, within range of the space station. Robotic arm built in Canada, which will extract a new pair of solar panels from the Dragon’s chest to improve the power system of the orbiting laboratory.

“We have some pretty big milestones ahead so let’s take our foot off the accelerator and make sure we keep an eye on the ball,” Hopkins said on Friday.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.

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