Space Shuttle Endeavour and its seven crewmembers began rendezvous preparations shortly after 3 a.m. today, which should culminate in an 8:32 a.m. docking to the International Space Station, which will be northeast of Hong Kong at an altitude of 240 miles. The shuttle is bringing an advanced robotic arm, experiments and supplies to the ever-growing science outpost.
Before the undocking a week later, two space walks will have been conducted and Raffaello, the second Multipurpose Logistics Module provided by the Italian Space Agency, will have been unloaded and reloaded after berthing to the station. The pressurized cargo carrier – an orbital moving van – is bringing food, equipment and other supplies, as well as two scientific experiment racks for the U.S. laboratory Destiny.
Endeavour will approach the station from behind and below. Commander Kent Rominger and Pilot Jeff Ashby, assisted by the rest of the crew, will fly the shuttle to a point about 600 feet directly below the station. With the cargo bay pointed toward the station, they will fly a quarter circle to a point about 300 feet ahead of the station. From there they will begin a slow approach to the docking port at the forward end of Destiny. Stationkeeping will begin at a distance of about 30 feet to ensure a good alignment with the station’s docking target before Rominger resumes the approach at a speed of about one foot every 10 seconds until docking.
Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” awakened Endeavour’s crew – Rominger, Ashby and Mission Specialists Chris Hadfield, John Phillips, Scott Parazynski, Umberto Guidoni and Yuri Lonchakov – early this morning. The song from the Top Gun soundtrack was played for Rominger.
The space station’s crew was awakened shortly after 2 a.m. to make final preparations for the shuttle’s arrival. The Expedition Two crew of Russian Commander Yury Usachev and astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms has been aboard the station for more than a month since assuming duty from the Expedition One crew on March 18.
Though joined together, the two crews will not meet face-to-face until early Monday, after the first space walk by Hadfield and Parazynski. Endeavour’s cabin pressure was lowered to 10.2 pounds per square inch Friday afternoon in preparation for that space walk, while the atmosphere inside the station remains a normal 14.7 psi.
The first space walk, scheduled to begin about 6:20 a.m. Sunday, will focus on installation of the station’s robotic arm, called Canadarm2. The space walkers also will install a UHF antenna on the station’s exterior. Their second space walk Tuesday, features routing power and checking out the stations arm, which at 57.7 feet long, is longer, more flexible and more powerful than the robotic arm used by the shuttle fleet. If necessary, a third space walk could take place Thursday.
All systems are in good shape aboard both vehicles. The next status report will be issued Saturday afternoon, or as events warrant.
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