On Friday morning, Russian docked its new Prichal module to the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station.
Russia’s Prichal docking module arrived on a modified Progress spacecraft, where the pressurized module was replaced with Prichal. The new docking module launched on November 24 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 8:06 a.m. EST. The Soyuz 2.1b rocket carried the module and eventually met up and docked with the ISS Friday morning.
Prichal is a docking module, meaning it will be used for Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to dock to when visiting. Before the new module arrival, the Russian segment had four ports for either Soyuz or Progress vehicles to dock to; Prichal brings that number to seven.
The purpose of the Prichal docking module is to support additional docking locations for future missions to the ISS. It will also support fueling operations for the Nauka science module, where Prichal is attached.
Future private missions to the space station
Recently we’ve seen an increase in the number of private missions wanting to fly to the ISS. Russia recently launched an actress and director to the ISS to film scenes for a movie, and Axiom in the US has missions planned with SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Unfortunately, the US side only has two International Docking Adapters, which will limit NASA’s ability to have more than that number of crew vehicles at the station simultaneously. This low number of available ports is already causing issues with finding a launch window for Boeing Starliner’s OFT-2, technical problems aside.
However, the Russian Soyuz capsule can now dock at more locations and possibly allow more visiting spacecraft and crew in the future.