There’s a lot on SpaceX’s agenda this year if the company can maintain its pace, including refinements of the Falcon 9 rocket to hasten refurbishment between flights and the debut of the long-delayed Falcon Heavy launch vehicle with two side boosters recycled from previous missions, Elon Musk said after last week’s successful liftoff of a previously-flown rocket.
Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, setting a new record as the world’s most experienced female spacewalker, floated outside the International Space Station Thursday and continued work to set up a second docking port for U.S. crew ferry ships. They also installed an upgraded computer relay box and protective shielding before calling it a day.
President Donald Trump signed a new NASA authorization bill Tuesday, the first such space policy framework since early in the Obama administration, that largely continues the space agency’s efforts to foster a commercial economy in Earth orbit and explore deep space, with an eventual goal of landing humans on Mars.
NASA is gearing up for an intense few weeks of work aboard the International Space Station, staging three spacewalks, moving a docking port from one module to another to support commercial crew ferry ships and capturing an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship carrying nearly 4 tons of equipment and supplies.
NASA has purchased two seats on Russian Soyuz capsules launching later this year and in early 2018 to expand the crew on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, and reserved options to fly astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft in 2019 if commercial rides are not available in time.