Atlantis Links Up with the Station

The Space Shuttle Atlantis caught up with the International Space Station this morning, linking up at 1048 GMT (6:48am EDT). After 2 hours of preparations, the airlock was opened, and the astronauts were greeted by the current station residents. As one of the first tasks of the day, the Atlantis crew used their robotic arm to transfer the P3/P4 integrated truss from the shuttle’s cargo bay to the robotic arm on the station. The STS-115 crew will conduct three spacewalks during their mission to connect and configure the truss for permanent operations.

There was no fumble in space today when Space Shuttle Atlantis’ robotic arm handed off the P3/P4 integrated truss structure to its counterpart on the International Space Station. The orbital exchange took place at 10:52 a.m. EDT today and sets the stage for installation of the truss on the station on Tuesday.

The truss arrived with the STS-115 crew when Atlantis docked to the station at 6:48 a.m. The STS-115 and station’s Expedition 13 crews quickly went to work shortly after the hatches opened at 8:30 a.m.

Lead STS-115 Flight Director Paul Dye said rendezvous and docking operations went smoothly. “The rendezvous this morning was probably as perfect as any rendezvous that I have been a part of,” Dye said.

The truss structure, which is 17.5 tons and 45 feet long, contains a set of solar arrays. The STS-115 crew will conduct three spacewalks to outfit and prepare the truss for operation. The first spacewalk will take place Tuesday after the P3/P4 is attached to the P1 truss.

In preparation for the first spacewalk, Mission Specialists Joe Tanner and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper will begin a new pre-spacewalk procedure called “camping out” when they enter the station’s Quest Airlock at about 2:40 p.m.

“Camping out” helps the spacewalkers begin the spacewalk earlier by reducing the amount of time typically required for the pre-breathe exercise and some spacewalk preparations.

Original Source: NASA Shuttle News