Atlantis Arrives at Space Station, Joint Operations Begin

The STS-117 crew entered the International Space Station for the first time after the hatches between the station and Space Shuttle Atlantis opened at 5:20 p.m. EDT today.

Space Shuttle Atlantis and the STS-117 crew arrived at the International Space Station at 3:36 p.m., delivering a new truss segment and crew member to the orbital outpost.

One of the first major tasks is the station crew rotation. STS-117 Mission Specialist Clayton Anderson will switch places with Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Suni Williams, who will be wrapping up a six-month tour of duty on the station. Anderson is scheduled to stay on the station until he returns to Earth with STS-120 later this year.

Anderson will officially become a member of Expedition 15 when his custom-made seat liner is swapped out with Williams’ in the Soyuz spacecraft docked to the station.

The crews will prepare for Monday’s installation of the Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss segment and the first of three scheduled STS-117 spacewalks. The crews will use the shuttle robotic arm to lift the S3/S4 out of Atlantis’ payload bay and hand it off to the station arm.

The S3/S4, which contains a new set of solar arrays, is scheduled to be attached to the station at 10:08 a.m. Monday. Then, STS-117 Mission Specialists John “Danny” Olivas and Jim Reilly will make connections between the station and the new truss segment during the spacewalk, which is set to kick off at 1:53 p.m.

About an hour before docking, Sturckow and Archambault guided the shuttle through a back-flip maneuver that allowed the Expedition 15 crew to photograph the shuttle’s protective heat-resistant tiles. The imagery will be sent to engineers on Earth for analysis.

STS-117 is the 21st shuttle mission to visit the station. Atlantis scheduled to undock June 17 and return to Earth on the 19th.

Image above: Space Shuttle Atlantis is pictured moments after docking to the International Space Station’s Destiny laboratory. Image credit: NASA TV

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