Next Crew Checks Shuttle and Payload
Pilot Lee Archambault and Commander Frederick Sturckow. Even as the STS-116 crew aboard Discovery orbited the Earth in tandem with the International Space Station, the astronauts for the next mission reported to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for two days to check the orbiter and payload for their mission.

Image at Right: STS-117 Commander Frederick Sturckow (right) and Pilot Lee Archambault inspect the cockpit of the orbiter Atlantis. The astronauts are at Kennedy for a crew equipment interface test, which involves equipment familiarization and inspection, a routine part of astronaut training and launch preparations. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

This exercise, known as a crew equipment interface test, is a standard part of their training. Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester and Steve Swanson. The hands-on experience is a vital step in the preparation of all shuttle crews, helping them gain first-hand knowledge of the flight hardware they will use during the mission. Each crew spends time at Kennedy working with the actual payloads and orbiter it will take into space.

Image at Left: In the Orbiter Processing Facility, Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester (left) and Steve Swanson examine the orbiter Atlantis, the designated launch vehicle for the STS-117 mission. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

STS-117 will be the 21st shuttle mission to the space station. Commanding the mission is Frederick Sturckow, with Pilot Lee Archambault joining him in the shuttle’s cockpit. Rounding out the crew are Mission Specialists James Reilly, Patrick Forrester, Steve Swanson and John D. Olivas.

The space station's starboard integrated truss segment with solar arrays (S3/S4) is the prime payload of the 11-day mission, scheduled to lift off from Kennedy's Launch Pad 39A in mid-March. Mission Specialist John Olivas. The segment is a twin to the P3/P4 segment that was installed by the STS-115 crew in September and activated by the STS-116 astronauts during their mission to rewire the station's power system. Both the port and starboard segments include solar array "wings" on rotating joints that allow them to remain pointed toward the sun in order to gather solar energy to power the station. The STS-117 astronauts will attach the S3/S4 segment and deploy the arrays.

Image at Right: With Atlantis' tiles visible in the background, Mission Specialist John Olivas checks equipment, including a camera, during the crew equipment interface test. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The crew will fly aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, the shuttle that also delivered the P3/P4 truss to the station. While at Kennedy, the crew members got a chance to thoroughly inspect Atlantis inside the Orbiter Processing Facility where prelaunch preparations are under way.

Mission Specialist James Reilly Image at Left: In the Space Station Processing Facility, STS-117 Mission Specialist James Reilly examines the S3/S4 integrated truss segment. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Cheryl L. Mansfield
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center
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