Commander Mike Hopkins and his three companions will board the Crew Dragon “Resilience” capsule on Monday in a maneuver for the first time to transport the SpaceX-owned spaceship to a new docking port outside the International Space Station.
Hopkins and pilot Victor Glover will surround Japanese astronaut Sochi Noguchi and NASA mission specialist Shannon Walker in a 45-minute maneuver to reposition the Crew Dragon spacecraft. They’ll fit in their SpaceX white press outfit, just like any other docking or undocking on the space station.
Monday’s docking port exchange will be the first time SpaceX’s crew capsule has performed a transport maneuver.
“We’re very excited about that,” Hopkins said Friday.
The Russian Soyuz spacecraft has changed docking ports on the International Space Station 19 times, most recently on March 19.
“There is a big difference between how Soyuz does this and we do it,” Hopkins told Spaceflight Now in an interview last year. “Soyuz does everything manually, and this is planned to run automatically. However, we do have the ability to take it over and do it manually if we need to.”
On November 15, the Hopkins crew launched the Crow Dragon spacecraft, dubbed Resilience, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, kicking off the first fully operational flight of the SpaceX crew capsule. Their mission, known as Crew-1, docked at the International Space Station the next day.
The Crew Dragon Resilience slid into seamless docking with the front port of the Harmony Space Station module, the same location once used by visiting space shuttles. Monday’s transfer maneuver will stop the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft in a similar docking port at the top, or the summit side, of the Harmony module.
Ground controllers at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, planned to activate and inspect the systems on the Crew Dragon capsule on Sunday.
“Sunday is going to be really busy before we go to port,” said Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager. “We will wake the dragon. It has been pretty much quiet during these four and a half months (since docking).”
On day 141 of their mission, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi Walker will float in their spaceship early Monday and close the gates between the Crew Dragon and the space station.
The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft is scheduled to take off from the space station at 6:30 a.m. EST (1030 GMT). A few minutes before the capsule detaches from the station, an automated command will initiate the process of disconnecting the navel and opening the hooks to allow the Crew Dragon to leave the docking port.
“What’s interesting about it is that it’s really a combination of the four different flight phases that we have with the car.” Hopkins said, “So there’s a basic method for de-docking, which we’ll go through all the same steps – we’ll be fine – all of the same checks that we’re doing on Normal day of removal. ”“ We just put in a flag that tells the car this is going to be a haul-off rather than a regular de-dock. ”
The capsule will retract to a distance of about 200 feet, or 60 meters, according to Stitch, and use Draco engines to fly from a position in front of the space station to a location above the complex.
“Then there is a next stage of decommissioning, where … the relative navigation systems must be restored, and therefore this is a critical stage,” he said. “Once this is done, we can then prepare for this port relocation piece. Then, once we command the start of the port relocating piece, it goes from this forward docking axis to the high docking axis. At this point, it feels like a normal dock from new “.
The Crew Dragon’s computers will route the capsule to an automatic link with a peak port on the Harmony unit at 7:15 AM EST (1115 GMT).
Just like the Soyuz crews heading for a relocation maneuver, the Dragon astronauts will be ready to return to Earth in the event of problems reconnecting with the space station.
“In this very short period of time, we have three or four different stages of the journey going on and you still have the possibility that if something goes wrong in trying to dock, you might end up going home,” Hopkins said. “So we have to be ready to go home too.
“So it’s a very interesting part of the journey, and we’re very excited that we’ll have the chance to do that because I think it’s going to be challenging, but I think it’s going to be a great ability to add, especially with the number of different types of vehicles we’ll be introducing in the near future,” he told Hopkins. Spaceflight Now.
NASA astronaut Kate Robins, who was aboard the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft when it switched docking ports last month, said the relocation “isn’t just a fun ride”.
“It’s all the fun and work on undock day, plus all the fun and work on dock day,” said Robins, speaking from a recent experience. “It’s a lot of activity. But it is so cool, and a really nice look to be separated from your car that you’ve been in your house for months and to be able to look at it from a distance of 60 meters.”
Monday’s transfer will pave the way for SpaceX’s next crew mission to dock at Front Harmony. SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, scheduled to launch on April 22 from the Kennedy Space Center, will carry Commander Shane Kimbro, pilot Megan MacArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshid and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Hopkins and his colleagues are scheduled to finish their mission on April 28 by leaving the space station and returning fiery to Earth’s atmosphere, culminating in a parachute-assisted landing off the coast of Florida.
Their dismissal on April 28 will clear the top port on the Harmony unit for the arrival of the next SpaceX Dragon charging mission scheduled to release on June 3. NASA wants the Dragon cargo ship to dock at Harmony’s Zenith Harbor, within reach of the space station. The Canadian-made robotic arm, which will extract a new pair of solar arrays from the dragon’s torso to modernize the power system in the orbiting laboratory.
Hopkins said Friday: “We have some big milestones coming up so let’s not get to grips with gas and make sure we keep our eyes on the ball.”
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