Two NASA astronauts: Commander Jeff Williams and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins supported by JAXA astronaut Takuya Onishi literally opened door for next phase of commercial space conquest during lasting 5 hours 58 seconds EVA performed on last Friday.
Installing International Docking Adapter was originally planned for 2015, but it was postponed due the disaster of Falcon-9 rocket on June 28, 2015, with IDA inside Dragon spacecraft. IDA was designed to serve Boeing CST-100 and manned version of SpaceX Dragon will make again possible sending astronauts to ISS by NASA. Installed on August 19 adapter is first from two planned before starting operating manned Dragon and CST-100. Second will be delivered to ISS in 2018 probably after first planned for February flight of CST-100 (first flight of Dragon with crew is planned for the end of the 2017).
It is one of the more important events for NASA during mission of the International Space Station. Five years after Space Shuttles were finally retired in 2011, NASA reached next milestone in long procedure of returning to manned space flights to ISS. IDA was delivered to ISS inside unpressurized cargo section of SpaceX Dragon during CRS-9 mission (Dragon was launched on atop of Falcon-9 FT launched from Cape Canaveral on June 18, 2016). Since docking of Dragon performed on June 21, 2016, IDA remained closed inside trunk until August 17, 2016 when it was extracted by Canadarm2 robotic arm (it was conducted remotely without engaging crew members) and moved closely to the PMA-2 (Pressurized Mating Adapter 2 and 3 were utilized for docking Space Shuttles). It was planned, that weighing 526 kg (with height of 110 cm and width of 160 cm) International Docking Adapter will be attached manually by Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams to PMA-2. Planned for August 19, 2016 spacewalk started when both astronauts left Quest airlock attached to Unity module at 12:04 GMT, took their tools and started to move towards PMA-2 (Pressurized Mating Adapter) placed in Harmony module. Next, astronauts attached their tethers to IDA and started to work. Installing IDA requires connecting number of cables for powering all the sensors, heaters, motors, and other elements responsible for correct locking 12 latches of IDA. After all sensors were connected they were checked by Takuya Onishi. Finally Japanese astronaut gave command to close latches and secure IDA at PMA-2 port.
This spacewalk will be followed by next EVA performed also by Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins on 1st September 2016. Objective of the fourth EVA will be retracting radiator, installing HD camera and changing external light.
On picture above: Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams are preparing their space suits before EVA.