The day's rendezvous operations began at 4:34 p.m. with Atlantis trailing the station by about 250 statute miles and closing the gap by 230 miles every orbit. Yesterday, the crew powered up the shuttle's docking mechanism and installed a centerline camera that will help line up the orbiter's docking mechanism with the station's docking port.
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition Two crew Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms awoke at 4 p.m. The Expedition Two crew spent its orbital morning preparing the station for the arrival of Atlantis, and some initial cargo exchanges.
Another successful firing of Atlantis' orbital maneuvering system engines at 6 p.m. refined the shuttle's approach. A final burn, called the Terminal Intercept (Ti) burn, is scheduled for 7:33 p.m. when Atlantis is about 50,000 feet behind the station. After the Ti burn, the shuttle's rendezvous radar system will begin tracking the station and providing range and closing rate information to Commander Steve Lindsey and Pilot Charlie Hobaugh. When Atlantis reaches a point about a half mile below the station, Lindsey will take manual control of the shuttle and slow Atlantis' approach, flying to a point about 600 feet below the station. Mission Specialists Michael Gernhardt, Janet Kavandi and Jim Reilly will assist, operating additional range-finding tools and documenting the approach with an IMAX camera mounted in the cargo bay. Lindsey will trace a quarter-circle around the station, bringing the shuttle to a point a little more than 300 feet in front of the Destiny laboratory and Pressurized Mating Adapter 2. From that point, Lindsey will move Atlantis toward the station at a speed of one tenth of a mile per hour until the two vehicles are just 30 feet apart; there he will pause for a few minutes to check his alignment. Lindsey will gently close the distance until the shuttle's spring-loaded docking mechanism makes contact with the station. The mechanism will be retracted and latches commanded to close, completing the docking process.
After docking, the crews are scheduled to open the hatches between the two vehicles about 11:30 p.m. and greet one another in a brief welcoming ceremony.