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Orbiter: Atlantis
Mission: STS-135
Payload: Raffaello
Launch: July 8, 2011
Time: 11:29 a.m. EDT
Site: Pad 39A, Kennedy Space Center
Landing: July 21 @ 5:57 a.m. EDT
Site: KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility

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Astronauts give Atlantis full post-launch inspection
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: July 9, 2011


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KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL--The Atlantis astronauts inspected the shuttle's heat shield Saturday and fine tuned the shuttle's approach to the International Space Station, setting their sights on docking at the lab's forward port around 11:07 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) Sunday.


An artist's concept of Atlantis' heat shield inspections. Credit: NASA TV
 
Flight Director Kwatsi Alibaruho told reporters that Atlantis, making its 33rd and final flight, is operating in near flawless fashion, allowing the crew to work at peak efficiency.

"On this, the last shuttle mission of the program, I'm very grateful the spacecraft is behaving as well as it is so we can finish strong, finish safely," he said. "My team's number one focus is on ending this mission and ending the program as safely as we have flown past missions. The great condition of the spacecraft is really helping us to do that so far."

Space shuttles normally fly with crews of six or seven, but just four are flying aboard Atlantis -- commander Christopher Ferguson, pilot Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim -- to minimize rescue scenarios in case of a major problem that might prevent a safe re-entry. But on the flip side, there are fewer hands available to do the same amount of work.

"It will be challenging to get through that inspection with a reduced crew complement," said Alibaruho said before launch. "But this crew has practiced considerably to be able to develop a flow or a routine, if you will, to where even though they have fewer hands available in the shuttle they'll be able to get through these inspections in the timeframe that's been allotted."

The crew did better than that, finishing well ahead of schedule.

The goal was to inspect the shuttle's heat-resistant nose cap and wing leading edge panels, which experience the most extreme heating during re-entry, to make sure no damage was incurred during launch Friday. Using an instrumented boom attached to the end of Atlantis' 50-foot-long robot arm, the astronauts inspected the right wing first, followed by the nose cap and then the left wing.

"We did not see anything, so far, that gave us great pause, nothing that was immediately visible to the naked eye," Alibaruho said after the inspection was complete. "Now of course, the process of analyzing the data we get from the sensor package on the OBSS (orbiter boom sensor system) takes several hours and we do expect that process to go normally. So we'll hear official word concerning the condition of the reinforced carbon carbon components of the thermal protection system, we'll probably hear that late tomorrow, maybe early in the morning depending on how the engineers are doing. But there was nothing that immediately gave us pause or that we were concerned about going into the inspection."

Based on a preliminary assessment of photographs and video taken during Atlantis' climb to space Friday, "we also saw very good debris performance from the tank on the way up hill," he said. "That also was very encouraging to us. We were extremely happy with the launch yesterday as you can imagine."

All in all, he said, "this is certainly one of the better starts (to a shuttle mission) that we have seen."

"The absence of anomalies also equals the relative absence of distraction," he said. "Even though we haven't had really serious problems with the shuttle in a while, when you do have the random heater failure, a sensor bias, or some other little thing, we go through a fairly rigorous process to try to ... make sure they are not symptoms of more serious problems.

"So examining every failure or every anomaly we have does take a considerable mental resources on the part of our flight control team. The relative absence of that, I think, has allowed our team to focus more on executing the nominal timeline."

Along with the heat shield inspections, Ferguson and Hurley the first of two rendezvous rocket firings early Saturday to refine Atlantis' approach to International Space Station and planned a second later in the day. The astronauts also planned to check out the rendezvous tools that will be used during final approach to the station Sunday.

Here is an updated timeline of the crew's planned activities for Saturday and Sunday (in EDT and mission elapsed time; includes revision B of the NASA television schedule; best viewed with fixed-width font):


DATE/EDT...DD...HH...MM...SS...EVENT

07/09
03:24 PM...01...03...55...00...Rendezvous tools checkout
03:29 PM...01...04...00...00...Centerline camera install
03:59 PM...01...04...30...00...Orbiter docking system ring extension
04:00 PM...01...04...31...00...MMT briefing on NASA TV
04:39 PM...01...05...10...00...Airlock prep
05:27 PM...01...05...58...19...NC-3 rendezvous rocket firing
07:29 PM...01...08...00...00...Crew sleep begins
09:00 PM...01...09...31...00...Flight day 2 highlights on NASA TV
11:00 PM...01...11...31...00..."Launching Our Dreams" replay on NASA TV

07/10
03:29 AM...01...16...00...00...Crew wakeup
05:19 AM...01...17...50...00...Group B computer powerup
05:34 AM...01...18...05...00...ISS rendezvous ops
07:01 AM...01...19...32...22...NC-4 rendezvous rocket firing
08:29 AM...01...21...00...00...Ti rendezbvous rocket firing
09:05 AM...01...21...36...00...Sunset
09:27 AM...01...21...58...36...Range = 10,000 ft
09:36 AM...01...22...07...16...Range = 5,000 ft
09:39 AM...01...22...10...53...Sunrise
09:41 AM...01...22...12...45...Range = 3,000 ft
09:45 AM...01...22...16...54...MC-4 burn
09:49 AM...01...22...20...00...Begin final approach timeline
09:49 AM...01...22...20...54...Range = 1,500 ft
09:52 AM...01...22...23...36...RPM Start Window Open
09:54 AM...01...22...25...54...Range = 1,000 ft
09:57 AM...01...22...28...54...KU to LO (800 ft)
09:58 AM...01...22...29...54...Shuttle directly below station (725 ft)
10:04 AM...01...22...35...06...Range = 600 ft
10:06 AM...01...22...37...00...Start pitch-around maneuver
10:08 AM...01...22...39...38...Noon
10:14 AM...01...22...45...00...End pitch maneuver
10:16 AM...01...22...47...36...Initiate pitch up to velocity vector (575 ft)
10:16 AM...01...22...47...40...RPM full photo window close
10:25 AM...01...22...56...10...RPM start window close
10:28 AM...01...22...59...06...Shuttle directly in front of station (310 ft)
10:29 AM...01...22...59...56...Range = 300 ft
10:33 AM...01...23...04...06...Range = 250 ft
10:37 AM...01...23...08...16...Range = 200 ft
10:37 AM...01...23...08...23...Sunset
10:39 AM...01...23...10...46...Range = 170 ft
10:41 AM...01...23...12...26...Range = 150 ft
10:45 AM...01...23...16...36...Range = 100 ft
10:48 AM...01...23...19...36...Range = 75 ft
10:52 AM...01...23...23...46...Range = 50 ft
10:56 AM...01...23...27...06...Range (30 ft) -- start stationkeeping
11:01 AM...01...23...32...06...Push to dock
11:05 AM...01...23...36...26...Range = 10 ft
11:07 AM...01...23...38...07...DOCKING
11:12 AM...01...23...43...15...Sunrise
11:34 AM...02...00...05...00...Leak checks
11:41 AM...02...00...11...59...Noon
12:04 PM...02...00...35...00...Orbiter docking system prepped for ingress
12:09 PM...02...00...40...43...Sunset
12:14 PM...02...00...45...00...Group B computer powerdown
12:34 PM...02...01...05...00...Hatch open
01:19 PM...02...01...50...00...Welcome aboard!
01:24 PM...02...01...55...00...Safety briefing
01:30 PM...02...02...01...00...Mission status briefing on NASA TV
02:04 PM...02...02...35...00...SRMS OBSS handoff
04:00 PM...02...04...31...00...MMT briefing on NASA TV
04:14 PM...02...04...45...00...ISS evening planning conference
06:29 PM...02...07...00...00...ISS crew sleep begins
06:59 PM...02...07...30...00...STS crew sleep begins
09:00 PM...02...09...31...00...Flight day 3 highlights on NASA TV

Spaceflight Now Plus
Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: COUNTDOWN PREVIEW AND WEATHER FORECAST BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: ASTRONAUTS ARRIVE AT LAUNCH SITE PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-FLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS FERGUSON PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-FLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH DOUG HURLEY PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-FLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH SANDY MAGNUS PLAY
VIDEO: PRE-FLIGHT INTERVIEW WITH REX WALHEIM PLAY

VIDEO: SHUTTLE AND STATION PROGRAM BRIEFING PLAY
VIDEO: THE STS-135 MISSION OVERVIEW PRESENTATIONS PLAY
VIDEO: PREVIEW BRIEFING ON MISSION'S SPACEWALK PLAY
VIDEO: THE ASTRONAUTS' PRE-FLIGHT NEWS BRIEFING PLAY

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