Astronauts on the space station just flew SpaceX's Crew Dragon to a new port - a first for the spaceship
- SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship moved on Monday to make way for the next Dragon capsule.
- The spaceship undocked from the
International Space Stationand maneuvered to a different port.
- It's the first time Crew Dragon has conducted this port relocation, but likely won't be the last.
Called a port relocation, the process required the spaceship to back away from the ISS port where it had been since it arrived at the orbiting laboratory in November, then fly to a different, space-facing port, and dock there instead. Russian Soyuz vehicles have conducted port-relocation maneuvers 15 times in the past, but no
The spaceship reshuffling cleared the way for SpaceX's next Crew Dragon capsule to arrive at the ISS. That mission, called Crew-2, is set to launch on April 22, bringing four more astronauts to the space station.
The four astronauts on the mission that's currently in orbit,
"The space station has become the spaceport we want it to be, with vehicles flying to it and returning
Watch the Crew Dragon switch parking spots
In preparation for port relocation, the Crew-1 astronauts - NASA's Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan's Soichi Noguchi - changed into their spacesuits early Monday morning. Spacesuits are required for docking and undocking maneuvers, in case anything goes wrong and the spaceship's cabin is compromised.
SpaceX also had a recovery ship stationed near splashdown sites in the Atlantic Ocean, in case the Crew Dragon had to deorbit and plunge back to Earth.
But everything seemed to go smoothly. The astronauts climbed aboard the Crew Dragon capsule, which they've named "Resilience," checked for air-pressure leaks, then instructed the spaceship to begin the fully automated maneuver. The hooks keeping Resilience attached to the space station's forward port retracted at 6:30 a.m. ET, undocking the spaceship from the ISS. The vehicle then fired its thrusters to back away.
Over the next 30 minutes, while circling the Earth at about 5 miles per second, Resilience moved above the ISS and aligned itself with the station's space-facing zenith port. It docked there at 7:08 a.m. ET.
NASA broadcast the maneuver in the video below. Undocking starts at about 30:45.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and her Russian colleagues, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, also performed their own port relocation on March 19. They moved their Soyuz spaceship from the Earth-facing port of the Russian module on the ISS to its space-facing port. That leaves the former open for the next Soyuz spaceship to bring up three more astronauts on April 9.
Unlike Crew Dragon, however, Soyuz has to be maneuvered manually.
After Crew-1 returns to Earth, an uncrewed Cargo Dragon spaceship carrying new solar panels for the ISS is set to take its place on the zenith port.
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