Friday, July 17, 2009

Endeavour to Dock with Space Station Today

The seven member crew of the space shuttle Endeavour will fly up to and dock with the international space station today, joining its six astronauts aboard and creating the largest space population inside one spacecraft.

Docking is planned for 1:55 pm EDT, this afternoon as the pair enter an orbital sunrise over Asia. The hatches between the two spacecrafts are scheduled to open at about 3:40 pm.

To place Endeavour in proper attitude with the station, it must perform a series of engine burns this morning. One burn, known as the TI burn, is scheduled for 11:17 am. The orbiter will be in position at 12:50 pm to perform a back flip so that crew members aboard the station can photograph the orbiter's black belly tiles for detailed analysis of any damage to the underside.

Endeavour's crew awoke this morning at 7:03 am, to the Beatle's song, Here Comes the Sun, for mission commander Mark "Roman" Polansky. The other crew member include pilot Douglas G. Hurley, and mission specialists Christopher J. Cassidy, Thomas H. Marshburn, David A. Wolf and Julie Payette (Canada).

This will be Polansky's third visit to the space station. In 2001, he served as pilot of Atlantis on the STS-98 mission which carried up and installed the Destiny U.S. Laboratory. And, in December 2006, he served as commander of Discovery on the STS-116 mission which delivered the Port 5 truss segment.

This will be Payette and Wolf's second visits to the space station as well.

Payette flew aboard Discovery in 1999 on the first shuttle - station docking flight. Meanwhile, Dave Wolf (above, on Thursday) flew aboard Atlantis in October 2002, in which he performed three spacewalks. The mission carried up the S1 integrated truss segment.

Also this morning, NORAD and NASA are tracking "Object 84180", a piece of space junk. It's closest approach to the shuttle & station complex will be on Saturday at 5:11 am EDT. Endeavour might reboost the complex tonight at 8:30 pm to avoid a possible collision.

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