STS-117 Crew Inspects Heat Shield, Prepares for Sunday’s Docking

The STS-117 crew is busy during its first day in orbit, inspecting Space Shuttle Atlantis’ heat shield and preparing for Sunday’s arrival at the International Space Station.

Crew members started the heat shield inspections on time this afternoon. They are using Atlantis’ robotic arm to check the spacecraft’s underside, nose cap and leading edges of the wings. The crew will also use a 50-foot long boom extension on the end of the arm to inspect some of the hard to reach shuttle surfaces. The inspections are slated to wrap up about 6:53 p.m. EDT.

The inspections are to check if any damage occurred to the heat shield during the climb to orbit that began when Atlantis lifted off at 7:38 p.m. Friday from Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Over the next few days, engineers and flight controllers will analyze the data collected by the STS-117 crew.

The preparations for Sunday’s activities include the extension of the shuttle’s docking ring and the check out of tools they will use to rendezvous and link up with the station. Docking is set for 3:38 p.m. Sunday.

The check out of spacesuits is also on Saturday’s schedule. The STS-117 crew will use the spacesuits during the mission’s three scheduled spacewalks at the space station. The major objective of the spacewalks is to install and activate the station’s newest component, the Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss segments.

STS-117 is also delivering a new crew member to the station.

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