Friday, July 17, 2009

STS-127: RPM and Docking

Shuttle Endeavor began the Roll Pitch Maneuver when it was about 600 meters from the ISS. The pilot and commander guided the shuttle in a flip-over maneuver to expose the protective tiles of the underbelly and let the ISS crew take high-resolution pictures of any potential damage from the FOam strikes during takeoff. I'm sure we'll soon hear the results of the analysis during the weekend.

Having completed the RPM, the shuttle was flown carefully and slowly to the docking hatch. I love this view of Endeavor sneaking up on the ISS. The view includes the side of the KIBO space module, which is at the center of attention this mission. Astronauts will perform 5 spacewalks on this visit to fully outfit the Japanese module for scientific work in space. You can see the Japanese flag on the near side of the module.

The last few meters of approach are the slowest, as the pilot carefully aligns the two docking components. When they meet, a final nudge of the thrusters fits the docking rings together and the hatch is secured.

Now securely docked, it takes a little time to equalize the pressures between the spacecraft before the shuttle crew can disembark and enter the ISS. When they enter, the traditional naval bell is rung to welcome the visitors aboard and the shuttle crew is given a quick safety briefing before getting down to work. Preparations were begun almost immediately for the first scheduled spacewalk tomorrow.

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