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Space Station Adapter Paves Way For NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

This artist's concept shows a SpaceX Crew Dragon docking with the International Space Station, as it will during a mission for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. NASA is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to build a new generation of human-rated spacecraft capable of taking astronauts to the station and back to Earth, thereby expanding research opportunities in orbit. Photo: SpaceX

Astronauts on board the International Space Station will install a critical piece of hardware for the next generation of U.S. astronauts heading to the orbiting lab.

The International Docking Adapter, or IDA, will allow private space companies Boeing and SpaceX to park a spacecraft at the station.

It’s a part of NASA’s commercial crew program, where NASA pays private companies to send U.S. astronauts to space. Boeing and SpaceX received NASA contracts to make multiple trips.

It’s the first time astronauts will head to the station from American soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program five years ago.

Friday morning’s extravehicular activity is a big step in getting astronauts back to the station said Kenneth Todd, Station Operations Manager.

“This EVA that we’re going to be doing on Friday represents a very significant milestone in the path to establishing a commercial crew capability,” said Todd.

Steve Stich, Deputy Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program says the new docking port allows the companies to park their spacecraft at the station – ushering in a new chapter of the station’s history.

“It will really be that gateway or new door to open up the space station to these new commercial vehicles,” said Stich.

NASA plans to install another docking port at the station. More ports mean more astronauts can live on the station.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are planning un-crewed test flights next year.

The EVA begins around 8:05 AM EST on Friday and streams on NASA TV.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »