The International Space Station (ISS) saw a SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship switch from one docking port to the other on April 5, signaling the beginning of a very busy month for spacecraft deliveries and departures. At 6:30 a.m. Eastern, the Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience was able to undock from the station’s Harmony module’s forward port. With four space explorers on board, the spaceship shifted 60 meters away from the station before moving into place to dock with the module’s zenith terminal. At 7:08 a.m. Eastern, the Crew Dragon arrived at the new terminal.

The port-relocation maneuver, which is the facility’s first by the commercial crew unit, is part of a dynamic choreography of vehicle movement. When the next Crew Dragon spaceship lands at the station later in the month on Crew-2 mission, this move will cause it to dock to forward a port.

After Resilience eventually returns to the Earth in late April for the upcoming cargo Dragon project in June, the zenith port will become accessible. The cargo Dragon spacecraft must dock with zenith port so the station’s robotic arm can be able to retrieve equipment contained in the spacecraft’s trunk portion, which is unavailable if it docks with a forwarding port.

The port-relocation operation is easy, but it isn’t easy. “Doing a fly around is quite amazing,” stated Kate Rubins, who is a NASA space explorer on the International Space Station who took part in a related maneuver comprising the Soyuz MS-17 spaceship, which switched from the docking port on Rassvet module to one on Poisk module on March 19. After Soyuz MS-17 does return to Earth for future spacewalks from the station’s Russian portion, the maneuver will free up the Poisk module’s airlock. During an appearance on NASA TV on April 2, she stated, “It’s all the fun and job of undocking day, including all the fun as well as work of docking day.” “A lot is going on, so it’s fairly cool.”

The presence was part of a celebration of NASA’s commercial crew program’s tenth anniversary, though development on the program began well before the project was officially introduced in 2011. Crew-1, the station’s first operating commercial crew flight, launched in November, is being flown by the Crew Dragon. The software also requires the station to have seven individuals on board at once, including four NASA astronauts as well as a fifth from Japanese space agency JAXA, among other advantages. During the NASA TV gathering, Mike Hopkins, commander of Crew-1, stated, “It’s been very empowering for the station as well as what we can do up here.”

During a recent sequence of spacewalks, Rubins mentioned the benefit of having more astronauts. Shannon [Walker] was able to maintain all of the station stuff going that we usually have to pause as we get into the EVA season,” she added, referring to science projects.

By Adam

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