At the ISS, NASA gives big aerospace another frontier | News | DW | 19.08.2016
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At the ISS, NASA gives big aerospace another frontier

Kate Rubins has become the first professional virus hunter to walk in space. She and the veteran Jeff Williams were prepping the International Space Station for private extra-atmospheric excursions.

On Friday, Kate Rubins became the 12th woman overall, 11th US woman and first microbiologist to walk in space. Rubins and four-timer Jeff Williams routed a cable for an under-construction docking port at the International Space Station to allow commercial crafts to dock at the ISS by early 2018.

"Great view," Rubins said.

Nasa TV - ISS - Astronauten Kate Rubins und Jeff Williams

The spacewalk lasted almost six hours

Rubins and Williams, who share the ISS with a Japanese astronaut and three Russian cosmonauts, spent two hours tying down the adaptor, and robotic machinery made the attachment permanent. During the rest of the spacewalk, they connected power and data cables for the adaptor. The fittings will enable the space station to share power and data with visiting spaceships.

The US had been paying Russia to take its astronauts to the ISS. NASA had intended to have the first of two new docking ports installed last year, but a takeoff accident in June 2015 left the launch equipment destroyed.

'In commercial space'

The adapter that Williams and Rubins attached to the shuttle's docking port will allow commercial taxis from Space Exploration Technologies, which shipped the dock last month, and Boeing to park at the $100 billion (88 billion euro) research laboratory 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. NASA will provide most or perhaps all of the initial test pilots.

California-based SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, plans to begin test flights of its Dragon craft to the station in 2017. The passenger capsule will launch on SpaceX's Falcon rocket from the former shuttle site at Kennedy in Florida and fall into the Atlantic Ocean on its return. Boeing, which built the adaptor, plans to send its CST-100 Starliner on its debut flight in 2018, with a return somewhere in the southwestern US desert, possibly in New Mexico.

"With that, we have a new port of call," NASA commentator Rob Navias said as the space station flew over Singapore at 10:40 a.m. (1440 UTC). "It's a gateway to a new era in commercial space," he added.

Williams and Rubins plan to make another spacewalk on September 1 to retract an out-of-use solar array cooling panel and install a high-definition television camera on the ISS's exterior frame.

mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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