ISS getting an important piece of cargo next week
Next week, the International Space Station (ISS) is getting an essential part of cargo: a new International Docking Adapter, or IDA, enabling future crewed spacecraft to dock with the station automatically.
The installation of the huge metallic ring, measuring 63 inches in diameter, will ultimately be done on the Harmony module. This is the second ever IDA going into space, though the first one never in really made it to orbit as it got vanished when the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying it to the station disintegrated at the time of launch in June last year.
The launch of the new IDA is scheduled for early Monday morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The vehicle is going to carry about 3,800 pounds of fresh cargo and science experiments, like a space-based DNA sequencer, known as minion, to be used by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins in DNA sequencing in space for the first time ever. But the IDA is probably the main item onboard.
The ring holds a lot of significance for the future of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a program that tasks private companies with making and working spacecraft that can ferry astronauts to and from the space station.
SpaceX and Boeing are the companies contracted through the program, and they are presently working on such space taxis for the US space agency. SpaceX is advancing its existing Dragon cargo capsule, changing it into a crewed vehicle suitably dubbed Crew Dragon, and Boeing is building its own capsule, the CST-100 Starliner. The launch of these vehicles has been planned for the first time ever with people on board by the end of 2017 and in the starting of 2018, respectively.
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