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Mon, Sep 11, 2006

Atlantis Docks With ISS; Now The Work Begins

No Fumbling As Shuttle Arm Hands Off Truss To Station Arm

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station and the shuttle Atlantis are wasting no time in going about their tasks for the 12-day construction mission -- as shortly after docking with the ISS Monday morning, the shuttle's 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 am EDT -- a bit over four hours after Atlantis docked with the station -- and sets the stage for installation of the truss on the station on Tuesday.

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 pm Monday afternoon.

"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. By breathing a pure oxygen environment for 24 hours before their spacewalk, the two mission specialists will be able to focus on preparation tasks immediately ahead of their planned spacewalk Tuesday.

Meanwhile, NASA engineers will analyze photographs taken of the orbiter's heat shield during Atlantis' "backflip" manuever (shown above) ahead of docking with the station. So far, it appears all is well with the orbiter.



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