Space Shuttle Atlantis docks with International Space Station

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Atlantis launches on mission STS-122

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Space Shuttle Atlantis, on mission STS-122, has docked with the PMA-2 docking port on the Harmony module of the International Space Station. Atlantis, carrying seven astronauts, launched on Thursday on a mission to deliver the European Columbus module to the Station.

Soft docking occurred at 17:17 GMT, followed by a hard dock at 17:35. This is the first time a Shuttle has docked to the Harmony module, since its installation in October 2007, during Shuttle mission STS-120.

Prior to docking, Atlantis performed a rendezvous pitch maneuver (RPM), rotating the orbiter through 360 degrees in order to allow an inspection of its heat shield. This was completed between 16:24 and 16:32.

NASA engineers are particularly interested in a loose insulation blanket on one of the OMS engine pods at the aft end of the Shuttle, which was discovered during inspections on Friday. The problem is similar to one which occurred on Atlantis' previous flight, STS-117.

Around three hundred pictures of the heat shield and OMS pods were taken, and transmitted to Earth for analysis.

Other problems under evaluation are reported to include a damaged tile towards the front of the shuttle, and an entire tile falling away from the rear of the shuttle when its engines ignited at launch. It is not believed that any of these issues will threaten the Shuttle or its crew.

Leak checks were then conducted, ahead of the opening of connecting hatches, which occurred at 18:40, and the subsequent boarding of the ISS by the crew of Atlantis.

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