Video of Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-122) Pitch Maneuver Prior to ISS Docking

In a superb video released by NASA, the Space Shuttle Atlantis’ 360 degree pitch maneuver is captured prior to docking with the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday. Atlantis’ mission to the station is to deliver and install the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Columbus science laboratory to the station tomorrow (Monday) despite the first spacewalk being postponed due to an undisclosed medical problem with one of the STS-122 astronauts, Hans Schlegel.

The Russian-built Zvezda module where the recent shuttle pitch maneuver was filmed from (Credit: NASA)
It is always amazing to witness the Space Shuttle in Earth orbit, especially when carrying out docking maneuvers or maintenance tasks. With the help of the crew on-board the ISS in the Russian Zvezda service module (pictured), Space Shuttle Atlantis’ rendezvous pitch maneuver (RPM) is videoed before the shuttle began its final approach to the station yesterday (Saturday). The maneuver, where Atlantis performs a “backflip” at a rate of three quarters of a degree per second, exposes the shuttle’s heat shielding on its underside. The ISS crew could then take a series of high-definition photographs to see if there was any damage to the protective layer.

A small protrusion to Shuttle Atlantis thermal blanket (Credit: NASA)
A small protrusion of Atlantis’ thermal blanket was discovered on Friday (8th Feb.) during a standard arm checkout and payload bay survey (pictured), but it is not believed to be a problem after the more detailed survey from the RPM.

Space Shuttle Atlantis finally made it into space after a series of delays. It was launched on Thursday (7th Feb.), and you can see the launch in another NASA video (from lift-off to booster rocket separation). Always exciting to watch…

The new Columbus module will be prepared for installation at 9:35am on Monday by Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Stanley Love during a space walk. Their first task will be the installation of the Power Data Grapple Fixture on the new module, allowing the ISS robotic arm to grab the laboratory and position it at the station’s Harmony module. We will be watching the events as they unfold…

Sources: BBC, NASA