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U.S. astronauts make renovations to ISS for space taxis

By Amy R. Connolly
U.S. astronauts make renovations to ISS for space taxis
Spacewalkers Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts attach power and data cables to the port and starboard sides of Pressurized Mating Adapter-2. Photo courtesy of NASA TV

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Two U.S. astronauts took the first of three spacewalks outside the International Space Station today to create parking spots for so-called space taxis that will ferry crew to and from the station.

Station commander Barry "Butch" Wilmore, 52, and flight engineer Terry Virts, 47, started the spacewalk shortly before 8 a.m. ET for the 6 1/2 hour venture. This is the first of three spacewalks in the next eight days to install wiring for two docking mechanisms for crewed commercial capsules built by Boeing and Space X. It is the first major overhaul of the station since it was completed in 2011.

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"We're doing a lot of reconfiguration this year," Kenneth Todd, NASA's International Space Station operations integration manager, said earlier this week. "We are really trying to take the station into this next phase in support of the commercial industries and providers."

The astronauts worked on Saturday to install electrical wiring, new antennas and cables at the station's Harmony module in preparation for the Boeing-built International Docking Adapters. The IDAs will allow the Boeing and Space X spacecraft to dock at the top and front of Harmony beginning in 2017. NASA is hoping to end its dependance on Russia for rides to the ISS since the space shuttle was retired in 2011.

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Wilmore and Virts are expected to continue the work on Wednesday and March 1.

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