Atlantis' climb to orbit was flawless, carrying a seven-member crew. Aboard Atlantis are Commander Rick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault, and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John “Danny” Olivas, Jim Reilly and Clayton Anderson.
As Atlantis launched, the International Space Station flew 220 miles above the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia. On the station awaiting Atlantis’ arrival are Expedition 15 Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineers Oleg Kotov and Suni Williams. The station crew watched Atlantis’ launch on a video link sent by Mission Control.
Atlantis will link up with the station on Sunday to begin a joint mission that will increase the complex’s power generation capability. Using the shuttle and station robotic arms and conducting three spacewalks, the astronauts will install another set of giant solar array wings on the station and retract another array, preparing it for a future move.
Anderson and Williams will switch places within hours after Atlantis arrives. Anderson will begin a four-month stay on the station. Williams will journey home on Atlantis. Williams has been on the station since December and will return to Earth with a record for the longest female spaceflight in history.
After reaching orbit, Atlantis’ crew began procedures to open the shuttle’s payload bay doors and set up computers and other equipment. They also will power up the shuttle's robotic arm to check its operation. They will use the arm on Saturday to inspect Atlantis’ heat shield. On Sunday, Atlantis is scheduled to dock to the station at about 2:36 p.m. CDT. The shuttle crew begins a sleep period at 12:38 a.m. CDT Saturday and will awaken for their first full day in space at 8:38 a.m. CDT Saturday.