Docking US commerical spacecraft to the Russia’s “Pier”
Earlier this week, Roscosmos sent its newest and final extension to its side of the International Space Station. The Prichal or “Pier” docking module has five available ports for future Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft. This now brings the total docking ports on the Russian side to seven, versus the four it had before.
Director of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, stated to Russian media that it is now in talks with NASA to allow commercial vehicles from US companies to dock with Prichal. However, this would require the spacecraft to have a special adapter to dock with Russia’s port.
Currently Scheduling conflicts with NASA’s IDA ports
Whether or not this will happen is unknown. Predicting Russia’s cooperation with NASA is like predicting when SpaceX’s Starship will launch next. It’s just impossible. If this happens, it could relieve some scheduling conflicts with visiting spacecraft to the international side of the station.
Currently, only two ports sport the International Docking Adapters, IDA-2 and IDA-3 (IDA-1 was lost on SpaceX’s CRS-7). SpaceX’s Crew/Cargo Dragons and Boeing’s Starliner use this form of docking port which makes for difficult scheduling for Boeing’s uncrewed and crewed flight tests. Throw in Axiom missions to the station, and NASA will have difficulty fitting in so many flights.
Moving a SpaceX Dragon to Prichal could solve this issue, allowing NASA to send more private astronaut missions to the station. This would also give Boeing more windows to get its Starliner capsule certified finally.