Station boosts orbit ahead of spacewalk, visiting vehicle swaps

 The orbit of the International Space Station was boosted on Aug. 9, 2017. Photo Credit: NASA

The orbit of the International Space Station was boosted on Aug. 9, 2017. Photo Credit: NASA

The International Space Station got its orbit reboosted on Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017. The slight raising of its orbit set up the next crew swap planned for the beginning of September.

Recently arrived Progress MS-06 used its onboard engines to increase the speed of the outpost, thus raising its orbit. The spacecraft is currently docked to the Zvezda service module located at the aft end of the station.

The boost aligns the space station's orbit to allow for a Sept. 2, 2017, landing of Soyuz MS-04. The spacecraft will undock and land on Earth with Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer. The trio will land several hours later in Kazakhstan.

Yuchikhin and Fischer have been in space since April 20, 2017, while Whitson has been in orbit since November 2016.

They will leave behind the crew of Soyuz MS-05, which includes European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik and Russian cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky. That trio has been at the outpost since July 28, 2017.

Less than two weeks after landing, Soyuz MS-06 will launch with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin and NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei andJoe Acaba. Liftoff is slated for Sept. 13, 2017. The trio is expected to spend 167 days at the outpost.

Before the crew lands and a new one arrives, however, SpaceX will be sending its CRS-12 Dragon capsule toward the ISS. The company is currently targeting 12:31 p.m. EDT (16:31 GMT) Aug. 14, 2017, to send the capsule into space atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A.

Right after that, on Aug. 17, 2017, Yurchikhin and Ryazanskiy will perform a spacewalk based out of the Russian segment of the ISS. The duo recently prepared their Russian Orlan suits by performing leak checks, installing batteries and fit checking them.