Space Shuttle Atlantis rocketed into space at 7:46 this morning and is on course to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday. At the time of Atlantis’ launch, the 67-ton station was flying above Hungary, southwest of Budapest.
The STS-106 launch countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the morning and the five astronaut, two cosmonaut crew was loaded into the crew compartment by 5 a.m. to await the final two and a half hours of the count.
Once on orbit, Commander Terry Wilcutt, Pilot Scott Altman and Mission Specialists Ed Lu, Rick Mastracchio, Dan Burbank, Yuri Malenchenko and Boris Morukov began configuring the shuttle for 11 days of on-orbit operations.
Their mission to the 143-foot-long International Space Station will focus on unloading nearly three tons of cargo from the orbiter and a Progress supply craft already docked to the opposite end of the station’s Zvezda module. The equipment and provisions basically complete the onboard stowage of supplies that will be used by the first resident crew – Expedition One – scheduled for launch aboard a Soyuz rocket in late October to begin permanent human presence on the station.
The crew begins its first sleep period just five hours after liftoff, at 12:45 this afternoon and will receive a wakeup call from Mission Control at 8:45 tonight.
After wakeup, Wilcutt and Altman will perform the first of a series of maneuvers designed to put the shuttle on a precise course to the International Space Station.
The next STS-106 status report will be issued at about 7:00 p.m. today unless developments warrant.
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