Two US astronauts rolled out a space-age welcome mat on the International Space Station (ISS) Friday, when they installed the first of two new docking adaptors that will allow private space shuttles to connect to the space research centre, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said.
Astronauts Kate Rubins and Jeff Williams left the confines of the ISS just after 1200 GMT to install the adaptor, floating for nearly six hours in space 400 kilometres above Earth.
The docking adaptor, which NASA termed a "parking spot" in social media posts, is intended for a future in which private US space transport companies, including SpaceX and Boeing, will supply the space station using shuttles they are developing in conjunct with NASA.
Since the US space shuttle programme ended in 2011, US astronauts have traveled to the ISS aboard the Russian Soyuz space capsule from its base in Kazakhstan.
But the United States hopes soon to have commercial space shuttles launch from Florida, a move NASA said will "restore America’s human launch capability and increase the time US crews can dedicate to scientific research."
The spacewalk was the first for Rubins, and the fourth for Williams. There are also currently a Japanese astronaut and three Russians on the ISS.