Astronauts move their SpaceX Dragon spaceship in orbit ahead of Boeing's Starliner launch

NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts on the International Space Station relocated the Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour ahead of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft arrival next weekend. 

The relocation occurred on Wednesday (July 21), when NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet moved Endeavour from the forward port of the space station's Harmony module to the space-facing port.

The relocation maneuver took less than one hour to complete and the capsule re-docked at 7:35 a.m. EDT (1135 GMT), according to a statement from NASA

Related: SpaceX's Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station in photos 

Moving Endeavour made room for NASA's Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, which is slated to launch to the space station on July 30 and arrive the next day. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will dock at Harmony's forward port, marking the first time two different U.S. commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to the space station at the same time, according to the statement. 

The OFT-2 mission will be Boeing's second test flight attempt, designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of its Starliner spacecraft, including launch, docking, atmospheric re-entry and a desert landing in the western U.S. Boeing's first Starliner test flight launched in December 2019, but the spacecraft did not reach the station as planned due to a series of technical problems. 

"The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data about Boeing's crew transportation system and help NASA certify Starliner and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station," NASA officials said in the statement. 

Wednesday's port relocation represented the second time this year that astronauts have had to shuffle spacecraft around at the space station. In April, NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts completed the first commercial crew port relocation at the orbiting lab when they moved Crew Dragon Resilience ahead of the SpaceX Crew-2 arrival. 

The SpaceX Crew-2 mission launched on April 23 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station on April 24. The crew is targeting an early-to-mid November return to Earth and will splash down off the coast of Florida. 

SpaceX's next crew rotation mission, Crew-3, is slated to launch to the space station on Oct. 31. Crew-3 includes NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. They will launch on a new Crew Dragon spacecraft from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a six-month science mission at the orbiting lab. NASA and SpaceX have a total of six certified crew missions planned as a part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program, according to the statement.

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.