Astronauts move Dragon at space station to make way for another spaceship

Space Station parking shuffle takes place without a hitch

It’s happened to everyone, someone parks in your spot or a car needs to be moved so you can get out of the driveway but in space that parking-spot shuffle requires a little more finesse and spacesuits.

On Monday, NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Japan astronaut Soichi Noguchi, donned their flight suits and moved the SpaceX Crew Dragon to another port on the space station to make room for another incoming Dragon spaceship arriving later this month.

“Hopper, you’re going to take Resilience out for a little hop around the station,” NASA Commercial Crew Program manager Steve Stich said to Hopkins on a call Friday, referencing the veteran astronaut’s nickname “Hopper.”

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The Crew Dragon, nicknamed Resilience, went from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:29 a.m. and docked to the space-facing port around 7:15 a.m.

On March 19, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins helped her two Russian crew members relocate the Russian Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft on the station. Rubins, Roscosmos Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and cosmonaut Sergey Kud-Sverchkov undocked from the Earth-facing port of the station’s Rassvet module and manually piloted the spacecraft to dock at the space-facing Poisk. It took under an hour for the parking maneuver.

Rubins said port relocation is “all of the fun and the work of undock day plus all of the fun and the work of docking day, so it’s a lot of activity.”

Unlike the Soyuz, the Dragon is operated autonomously.

“It’s pretty cool and it’s quite an amazing view to be able to separate from the vehicle that’s been your home for months and see it from 60 meters,” Rubin said.

This next move will free up the forward port for Crew Dragon Endeavour to arrive April 23, a day after launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida with four astronauts: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Hopkins, who has been sleeping in Dragon Resilience during his stay on the station, said he will spend his Easter Sunday making sure his sleeping quarters are tidy for the move.

“My Easter egg hunt is going to be making sure I didn’t leave anything in Dragon since I’ve been staying there for the past four or five months,” Hopkins joked.

Freeing up another parking space, Dragon Resilience will undock in late April or early May, which will allow a cargo Dragon spacecraft to dock with several tons of supplies for the space station this summer.

The move Monday will be the first time a Crew Dragon needs to relocate while at the ISS but it likely won’t be the last. Parking will be a hot commodity at the space station in the coming year as Boeing plans to launch its CST-100 Starliner to the ISS in a test run possibly next month as it prepares to began launching astronauts for NASA.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, developing and building spacecraft owned and operated by private companies but NASA and its partners can purchase seats on the spacecraft.

The Commercial Crew Program was established 10 years ago Friday.


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