Spaceflight Now STS-110

Atlantis heads for orbital rendezvous with station
Posted: April 10, 2002

Illustration of Atlantis' final approach to the station. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
Commander Mike Bloomfield and pilot Steve Frick will guide Atlantis through a standard rendezvous profile, firing the shuttle's maneuvering jets periodically to tweak the ship's orbit and set up a docking with the international space station around 12:05 p.m. EDT today.

See detailed docking timeline. Live updates on the docking will posted on our Mission Status Center page.

The shuttle will approach the station from below, passing about 600 feet beneath the outpost before slowly looping up to a point directly in front of the outpost. At that point, Atlantis will be oriented with its tail facing Earth and its payload bay facing the station.

The station will be oriented with its long axis in the direction of travel. A pressurized mating adapter mounted on the forward end of the Destiny laboratory module will face Atlantis. Destiny, in turn, is attached to the U.S. Unity module, a multi-hatch gateway linking the lab to the rest of the station.

Directly across Unity from Destiny is a pressurized mating adapter leading into the Russian Zarya propulsion and cargo module. Zarya, in turn, is attached to the Russian Zvezda command module at the aft end of the station's long axis.

A Progress supply ship currently is docked to Zvezda's aft port while the on-board crew's Soyuz lifeboat is docked to the downward-facing Zarya port module. Pirs is attached to the nadir docking port at the forward end of Zvezda.

Extending 90 feet up from the Unity module's zenith hatch is the Z1 truss and P6 solar array, which provides the bulk of the station's current power. The P6 array ultimately will be repositioned at the end of the station's main truss, the first element of which is being installed during Atlantis' mission.

The station's Quest airlock module, which will be used for all four of the upcoming STS-110 spacewalks, is attached to Unity's right-side, or starboard, hatch.

Positioned directly in front of the station's long axis, Bloomfield will manually guide Atlantis in so the docking system in the shuttle's cargo bay can mate with its counterpart on the pressurized mating adapter, or PMA.

"We call it a V-bar approach," Bloomfield said, referring to the station's velocity vector. "We'll fly below the international space station and then we'll fly all the way around out into the front, into what we call the V-bar, but we're flying now out in front of the station. And then finally, we'll fly in on that V-bar until we dock.

"It's been done before, it's proven, so there's not anything new on our flight and so you know if you do it right it's going to work," he said. "We're fairly confident it's going to work."

Once Atlantis is docked and hatches between the two craft are opened, Expedition 4 commander Yury Onufrienko and his two NASA crewmates - Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz - will welcome the shuttle crew aboard.

Launched Dec. 5, Onufrienko, Bursch and Walz are four months into a planned six-month stay aboard the space station. The Atlantis astronauts will be their first visitors since setting up shop aboard the outpost.

"They've been up there for more than 100 days now and I can only imagine what it would be like to be isolated up there for a hundred days and not have any other people to talk to," Ross said. "So I'm looking forward to sharing some experiences with them and hoping they can enjoy that time together before we depart."

The first spacewalk to attach the S0 truss is planned for the day after docking.