Pilot Lee Archambault and Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson used the shuttle’s robotic arm and an extension boom-mounted sensor system to inspect the heat shield on Atlantis’ wing leading edges and nose cap.
Last night the crew used the robotic arm to take a closer look at an area of insulation blanket on the port orbital maneuvering system pod that was seen to be pulled away from adjacent thermal tiles.
Prior to stowing the boom, the crew utilized the added reach to send Mission Control engineers up-close video of the displaced portion of the blanket. It will be analyzed along with the video from Friday night.
In preparation for Sunday’s docking, the crew extended the shuttle’s docking ring and checked out the rendezvous tools. The crew also installed a docking system centerline camera that will be used by Commander Rick Sturckow to align Atlantis with the station’s docking port.
While the robotic arm survey proceeded, Mission Specialists Danny Olivas, Jim Reilly and Clay Anderson checked and prepared the spacesuits they’ll wear during the three spacewalks on the fourth, sixth and eighth days of the mission. The major objective of the spacewalks is to install the station's newest component, the Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss segments, unfurl a new set of solar arrays and fold and pack the right side of the Port 6 solar array.
On the space station, Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Suni Williams prepared the orbiting laboratory for Atlantis’ arrival tomorrow. She readied the digital cameras that will be used to take high-resolution photos of the shuttle's heat shield. Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin pressurized the docking port at the back end of the U.S. laboratory, Destiny.
Tomorrow as Atlantis makes its final approach to the station, Sturckow will take control of Atlantis and begin a slow back-flip rotation allowing Yurchikhin and Flight Engineer Oleg Kotov to photograph the shuttle’s heat shield. Williams will videotape the maneuver.
Once the back-flip is complete, Sturckow will maneuver Atlantis to docking, setting the stage for a week of joint operations between the two crews.
After hatch opening and welcome, Anderson will transfer his seat liner to the Soyuz spacecraft and officially become a member of the station’s Expedition 15 crew, joining Yurchikhin and Kotov. Williams, who’s been in space since her launch last Dec. 9, will return home with Atlantis’ crew.
Delivery of the S3/S4 Truss segment, which includes a new pair of giant solar arrays for power generation, begins shortly after docking tomorrow when the shuttle robotic arm is used to lift it from the payload bay and hand it off to the station’s robotic manipulator. Installation of the truss segments occurs Monday in conjunction with the first spacewalk of the mission, conducted by Reilly and Olivas.