STS-126 to Dock at ISS

The Space Shuttle Endeavour, which launched two days ago, is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station today (November 16th) at 4:04 PM CST. The main goal of the mission, called STS-126, is to prepare the station for long duration stays of six members. In addition, astronaut Sandra Magnus, a new Expedition 18 crew member, is aboard the space shuttle and will replace Flight Engineer Greg Chamitoff.

 

Space Shuttle Endeavour’s mission will last 15 days. It will include important repair work at the International Space Station and the preparation of the station to accommodate six crew members for long term missions. The mission has four planned space walks, each lasting approximately 6.5 hours, which will take place on flight days 5, 7, 9, and 11. They will focus on servicing the station’s two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow its solar arrays to track the sun. This will restore the starboard SARJ capabilities, which have been limited in the past year.

Aboard the Endeavour is an eight person crew, three of whom are on their first spaceflight. It is carrying about 32,000 pounds, some of which is equipment for the International Space Station additions. This includes additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet, and a resistance exercise device.

Today’s activities started when the crew was woken up at 8:25 AM to the sounds of “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones. Endeavour’s approach to the station includes a photo session. When the spacecraft is about 600 feet below the station, commander Chris Ferguson will fly the spacecraft through the rendezvous pitch maneuver. That nine-minute back flip lets the station crew take high resolution photos of the shuttle’s thermal protection system.
Station Expedition 18 commander Mike Fincke will use a digital camera with an 800 mm lens and flight engineer Greg Chamitoff will have a camera with a 400 mm lens. From windows of the station’s Zvezda service module they will take as many as 300 photos, which will be analyzed by engineers to make sure the thermal protection system is safe for re-entry.

Ferguson, with help from the rest of the crew, will then fly Endeavour to a point about 400 feet in front of the station. There he will begin the final approach, at about a tenth of a foot per second. He will keep the docking mechanisms aligned to a three-inch tolerance as Endeavour moves to a docking with the Pressurized Mating Adaptor 2 at the forward end of the station’s Harmony node.

Shortly after docking, the hatch opening, and a safety briefing, Magnus will become a member of the Expedition 18 crew. She and station Flight Engineer Yury Lonchakov will install her custom seat liner in the Soyuz TMA spacecraft docked to the station. At that time, Chamitoff will become a member of the Endeavour crew.

Transfer of equipment and supplies between Endeavour and the station is scheduled to begin about three hours after docking. The crew is scheduled to go to bed at 12:25AM Monday and be awakened at 8:25 AM.

STS-126 is the 124th space shuttle flight, the 27th flight to the station, the 22nd flight for Endeavour and the fourth flight in 2008. The mission will be docked during the 10th anniversary of the space station on November 20.

TFOT continuously covers NASA’s space missions, among them the launches of the Discovery Space Shuttle on its STS-124 mission and STS-120 mission, and the Endeavour mission STS-123 and mission STS-118 launches.

Further information on Endeavour’s STS-126 mission and daily update reports can be found on NASA’s mission homepage.