Following a smooth launch earlier today, Commander Bob Cabana, Pilot Rick Sturckow and Mission Specialists Nancy Currie, Jerry Ross, Jim Newman and Sergei Krikalev began preparing the orbiter for 12 days of operations to begin construction of the International Space Station. Endeavour is carrying the first American-built component of the station -- a connecting module named Unity -- in its cargo bay.
Just half an hour after lift-off, the shuttle's payload bay doors were opened. A few minutes later, the crew was given the go-ahead to begin orbit operations - preparing the vehicle for space flight activities. The Shuttle's KU-band antenna, which provides high data-rate and television transmissions, was successfully deployed. Crewmembers also activated the Hitchhiker payload, which includes the Mightysat and SAC-A satellites that will be deployed late in the mission.
The first of six engine firings to refining Endeavour's orbit and close the distance from the Zarya control module, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Nov. 20, also was completed early this morning. Final rendezvous maneuvers to bring Zarya (the Russian word for "sunrise") in close proximity with Endeavour is planned to take place on Sunday afternoon. Endeavour currently trails Zarya by approximatley 1,300 miles and is closing on Zarya at a rate of 675 miles per orbit.
All systems aboard Zarya, which will provide the initial control and command capabilities for the space station, continue to function well with the minor exception of one of six battery charging systems. Endeavour is carrying replacement parts for the system in the event they are needed.
After they wake up to begin Flight Day 2, Endeavour's crew will conduct a check out of the shuttle's robot arm that will be used to remove the Unity module from the payload bay and connect one of Unity's Preassurized Mating Adapters (PMA) to the orbiter's docking mechanism. The robot arm will also be used to grapple Zarya and dock it to the PMA located at the other end of the Unity connection module.
Other Flight Day 2 activities will include a check-out of the spacesuits that will be used in three spacewalks planned for the mission, as well as checks of the SAFER unit. SAFER or Simplified Aid for EVA Resuce, is a mini-maneuvering unit that can provide self-rescue capability for a spacesuited crew member who inadvertently separates from a spacecraft during a spacewalk.
All systems aboard Endeavour continue to perform well with the Shuttle currently flying in a 200 by 118 mile orbit, circling the Earth every 90 minutes.