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International Space Station Adds New Docks for Space Taxis Arrival by 2017

Aug 18, 2016 04:53 AM EDT

NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins will be spacewalking for six and a half hours on Friday.

It won't be a leisurely walk in space because both astronauts will be installing a new international docking adapter (IDA) to the International Space Station (ISS) in preparation for the arrival of space taxis in 2017.

Private companies are set to create space taxis for NASA's ISS. It will ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. For the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is already building a Dragon cargo capsule, also known as the Crew Dragon. Boeing on the other hand is building a new crew capsule by the name of CST-100 Starliner. The spacecraft will carry astronauts to the ISS by 2017, and once there will dock at the IDA.

"We started building this 18 months ago, and now it's one of the most visible changes to the Cape's horizon since the 1960s," stated Chris Ferguson, former shuttle commander and Boeing's deputy program manager for the company's Commercial Crew Program.

The IDA installation was originally scheduled last summer. Yet, the adapter said to be used was destroyed when Falcon 9's rocket disintegrated during the launch. As for the current installation scheduled this Friday, it is a major milestone for NASA. The agency is confident that the flight will push through by 2018.

"The first crew flight is scheduled for February 2018. I am confident," explained Ferguson, adding, "And we have a lot of qualification to get through between now and then. But barring any large unforeseen issues we can make it."

As for the Commercial Crew Program, the space agency plans to reduce costs in sending astronauts to and from space. In addition, NASA hopes to increase the number of astronauts on the ISS. According to NASA officials, an additional member on the roster would greatly enhance the research conducted at the station.

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