Following a wake up call from Mission Control at 12:46 p.m. CST this afternoon, Commander Kevin Kregel and his crew – Pilot Steve Lindsey, Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, Winston Scott and Takao Doi and Payload Specialist Leonid Kadenyuk -- will begin their final preparations for the rendezvous and retrieval of the SPARTAN science satellite which was deployed earlier in the flight but failed to operate properly.
As Kregel flies Columbia to a point where Spartan is a few feet above the cargo bay, Doi and Scott, in their spacewalking suits, will be positioned opposite each other in foot restraints on the SPARTAN platform truss in Columbia’s payload bay, ready to manually grab the Spartan free-flyer and then lower the satellite down into its latches in the cargo bay. They will recapture the satellite using a procedure similar to one they rehearsed prior to the flight in the event the Shuttle’s robotic arm could not be used to retrieve the satellite.
Formal EVA preparations will begin around 3:00 p.m. Central time. About two hours later, at 4:51 p.m., Kregel will perform the Terminal Initiation (TI) burn to put Columbia on an intercept course with the Spartan spacecraft.
The spacewalk is planned to begin at about 6:00 p.m. Central time. Columbia is predicted to reach the vicinity of Spartan about 7:25 p.m. as Kregel flies Columbia to a point where the slowly spinning satellite will be hovering just over the cargo bay. If all goes well, Scott and Doi should grab the satellite sometime over the next hour or so, with the manual berthing of SPARTAN expected to be completed by about 8:30 p.m. The retrieval should leave Scott and Doi ample time to complete many of the International Space Station assembly tests planned for the mission involving the testing of a special crane which may be used in the future to haul large components from one station module to another for spacewalking astronauts.
In preparation for the spacewalk, the crew yesterday lowered the air pressure in Columbia’s cabin from the normal sea-level pressure of 14.7 pounds per square inch to 10.2 pounds per square inch, the pressure equivalent of about 10,000 feet altitude. The lower pressure helps prepare the spacewalkers to purge nitrogen from their bodies to prevent a condition commonly known as the bends when they go to the lower pressure, pure oxygen spacesuits.
Columbia is about 50 nautical miles behind SPARTAN, closing steadily for tonight’s rendezvous.
The shuttle itself remains in excellent condition, orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes at an altitude of about 176 statute miles. The next STS-87 status report will be issued around 5 p.m. Monday afternoon.
- end -