Spaceflight Now: STS-101 Mission Report

Atlantis docks to space station to begin repair effort
Posted: May 21, 2000

  Zarya and Unity
A view of the International Space Station from Atlantis' docking port. Photo: NASA TV
Veteran commander James Halsell guided the space shuttle Atlantis to a gentle, on-time docking with the 35-ton International Space Station today as the two spacecraft sailed high above central Asia.

Approaching the unfinished station from directly above, Halsell manually piloted Atlantis, its payload bay facing Earth, to a linkup at 12:31 a.m. EDT (0431 GMT) to close out a two-day orbital chase.

"Houston, we have capture," radioed Halsell as the docking mechanism engaged.

"Roger, congratulations," replied astronaut Chris Hadfield from mission control in Houston.

After a short pause to allow any relative motion to damp out, the shuttle's extended docking mechanism slowly retracted, firmly locking the two craft together. A few minutes later, Houston gave Halsell and company permission to take over attitude control of the combined vehicles, using the shuttle's maneuvering thrusters to keep both craft properly oriented in space.

"It's hard to make it look any easier than the crew made it look today," flight director Phil Engelauf told reporters later. "This was really a textbook rendezvous, everything went virtually exactly per the timeline, per the procedures."

The trouble-free docking capped a near-perfect rendezvous that began with Atlantis's liftoff Friday from the Kennedy Space Center. The only departure from NASA's usual script was the use of just one of the shuttle's two orbital maneuvering system - OMS - engines for rendezvous rocket firings that typically would have been carried out with both. Questions about the status of a valve in the left-side OMS pod, however, prompted flight planners Friday to rule out any more firings by the left engine until the end of the mission.

With docking behind them, the astronauts turned their attention to a spacewalk late this evening by astronauts James Voss and Jeffrey Williams to install a Russian cargo boom on the station's hull and to replace a faulty antenna on the Unity node module.

The 6 1/2-hour excursion is scheduled to begin at 10:31 p.m. EDT tonight (0231 GMT Monday). The astronauts will not open hatches between the shuttle and the space station until Monday evening, finally floating inside around 8:11 p.m. EDT.

You can follow the flight of Atlantis in Spaceflight Now's Mission Status Center. We will provide continuous play-by-play reports throughout the entire 10-day shuttle flight.

About the author
William Harwood has covered the U.S. space program for more than a decade. He is a consultant for CBS News and writes The Washington Post and Space News. He maintains a space website for CBS News.

Video vault
Space shuttle Atlantis blasts off at sunrise on May 19 on a 10-day repair mission to the International Space Station.
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The seven-member crew of space shuttle Atlantis leave their quarters on May 19 for the launch pad.
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NASA animation with narration shows Atlantis approaching and docking to the International Space Station and later separating for return to Earth.
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STS-101 Lead Flight Director Phil Engelauf describes the goals and objectives of Atlantis' mission to the International Space Station.
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Pre-launch briefing
STS-101 index - See a listing off all our STS-101 stories and coverage.

Mission preview - A special report package on Atlantis' repair mission and its astronauts.

Meet the crew - Get to know the seven astronauts that will fly aboard shuttle Atlantis.

Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.