Sunday, May 16, 2010

STS-132: Good Beginning for Last Mission

Atlantis soars upward on 32nd mission.

STS-132 began the last mission of the shuttle Atlantis with a perfect launch Friday. Atlantis carries a crew of six to the ISS to transfer batteries, spare parts, and the Russian Science module.

On Saturday the crew performed a visual inspection of the heat tiles under the orbiter and prepared for docking with the ISS.

Early Sunday morning, Atlantis approached ISS and performed the Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver for an additional photographic inspection of the heat tiles, then began a series of maneuvers to approach the station for docking.

Mission Control in Houston.

View from Atlantis through the docking port monitor. The shuttle is flying underneath the ISS. The objective is to dock at the Pressurized Mating Adapter (the dock) on the Destiny Module, visible just left of the intersection of the "Y" crosshairs. At the intersection is the Kibo Japanese module with the science experiments "porch." To the left of the docking port is the "Columbus" European experiments module.

Positional Screen. At the crosshairs center is the ISS. The green lines display the approach "cone" that the shuttle must enter to approach the docking port. The shuttle graphic is underneath and angling a bit upwards.

Atlantis angling 45 degrees up from level, moving ahead of the iSS, and thrusting upwards.

Angle higher, moving ahead. Slow but steady progress. Atlantis must move to what is called the "V-Bar", or velocity vector approach. Which simply means move in front of the path of the ISS.

Pilot Ken Ham moves Atlantis into a near-perfect approach. Hmm. Maybe it is perfect.

Atlantis graphic reaches position. The dotted line indicates the path it would have taken if it had continued it's approach arc. Instead it will now move toward the docking port.

Docking complete. Earth in background. Piece of cake.

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