NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 mission astronaut the United Arab Emirates' Sultan Al Neyadi waves as he departs for the launch pad before launch to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 26, 2023.
SpaceX Crew-6 mission astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi waves as he departs for the launch pad before heading to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 26, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Two months after UAE astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi blasted off to space with his SpaceX Crew-6 crew mates, the four astronauts on the Crew-6 mission have been given a major assignment by NASA.

The four crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will relocate their SpaceX Dragon spacecraft’s docking port on Saturday, May 6, to make way for the arrival of an upcoming cargo spacecraft, NASA announced on Tuesday.

NASA also revealed that the Crew-6 members are targeted to return in August.

In the upcoming mission, Al Neyadi will be joining his fellow Crew-6 members, who are all now part of Exploration 69, to board their launch spacecraft, Dragon Endeavour, once again and make a short ride outside the ISS to dock it again to the station.

He will join NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev to relocate the Dragon from the space-facing port of the station’s Harmony module to the station’s forward Harmony port, according to the US space agency.

Relocation mission

NASA said it will provide live coverage of the move beginning at 7am EDT (3pm GST). The astronauts will undock the Dragon at 3.10pm here. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s forward Harmony port at 3:53pm.

The relocation will be supported by ground controllers at Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and SpaceX in Hawthorne, California.

It will free up Harmony’s space-facing port (zenith) for the docking of the next Dragon cargo spacecraft set to launch in June.

This is to facilitate the installation of the next pair of the International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or IROSAs to upgrade the station’s power generation system.

NASA said the relocation of the spacecraft is required to free up the zenith port on Harmony which allows the Canadarm2 robotic arm easier access to the iROSAs.

The new iROSAs will arrive on SpaceX’s 28th commercial resupply mission for NASA for installation through a series of spacewalks.

7-hour spacewalk

Al Neyadi and Bowen had conducted a historic spacewalk on Friday, April 28, to do preparatory works for the future installation of the iROSAs.

NASA confirmed that the duo wrapped up the 261st spacewalk or Extravehicular Activity (EVA) in the vacuum of space outside the ISS, first ever by an Arab astronaut, after 7 hours and 1 minute.

The spacewalkers had laid cables and installed insulation on mounting brackets on the starboard truss of the station for the installation of the next pair of iROSAs. The astronauts were unable to free up an electronics box located on the truss associated with a degraded S-band communications antenna. The antenna removal was deferred to a future spacewalk ahead of its planned return to Earth.

On Monday, Salem Humaid Al Marri, director general of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the Dubai-based agency behind the UAE Astronaut Programme, tweeted about discussing the EVA mission with Al Neyadi.

“He mentioned that he enjoyed the spacewalk and was able to apply what he had prepared for during the training,” Al Marri tweeted.

Congratulating Al Neyadi once again, Al Marri stated: “Excellent job Sultan. You performed exceptionally well, despite the challenges of the 7-hour mission, staying in the EVA suit for over 9 hours. Since the start of the mission, you have achieved historic milestones, and we are confident that this success will continue in the upcoming months as well.”

Resting after EVA

NASA said Al Neyadi and his EVA team members had Monday off following last week’s spacewalk and post-spacewalk cleanup activities.

“Bowen and Al Neyadi relaxed at the beginning of the workweek following Friday’s seven-hour and 1-minute spacewalk that saw them route cables and install insulation on the orbital outpost’s starboard-side truss structure. NASA astronauts Woody Hoburg and Frank Rubio, who assisted the spacewalkers from inside the station and helped them clean up after the spacewalk last week, also had the day off,” the agency said.

The Crew-6 members are in the midst of a planned six-month science mission living and working aboard the microgravity laboratory to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies for future human and robotic exploration missions, including lunar missions through NASA’s Artemis programme.

NASA said Saturday’s will be the third port relocation of a Dragon crew spacecraft, following previous relocations during the Crew-1 and Crew-2 missions.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission involving Al Neyadi launched on March 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and docked to the space station on March 3.

Crew-6, targeted to return in August, is the sixth rotational crew mission from NASA and SpaceX as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Programme, added NASA.