After a long delay due to the hail storm and some more last minute delays space shuttle Atlantis finally took to the skies over Florida. During the 11-day mission the shuttle’s crew will install the 17.5-ton S3/S4 truss segments on the ISS, which will extend the right side of the station and includes a new set of solar arrays. When unfolded, the 240-foot array will provide additional power to the station in preparation for the arrival of new science modules from the European and Japanese space agencies.
Atlantis is the fifth space shuttle launched since the 2003 Columbia disaster and the fourth shuttle launching covered by TFOT in the last year (other launches covered are: STS-121 on July 4th, 2006, STS-115 on September 9th, 2006 and STS-116 on December 9th, 2006). According to the Space Shuttle Program scheduled to end in 2010, after the completion of the Atlanta STS-117 mission, thirteen additional flights will take place. However, two unconfirmed contingency logistic flights may take place as well.