After a flawless launch at 7:46 this morning, the Space Shuttle Atlantis began its 6600-statute-mile orbital chase to catch the International Space Station where the crew will undertake a full menu of outfitting tasks to prepare the station for its permanent crew. Following the climb to orbit and initial on-orbit activities, the Mission Control Center has settled into working normal operations without any significant issues.
Once in orbit, the crew quickly packed up its ascent suits and unpacked equipment to ready the orbiter for the 11-day mission before turning in at 12:46 p.m. for its first sleep period. The crew will wake up at 8:46 this evening.
During its first full day in space the crew will prepare for Sunday's rendezvous and docking with the station and Monday's early-morning space walk by astronaut Ed Lu and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko.
About three hours after the wake-up call, Commander Terry Wilcutt and Pilot Scott Altman will initiate the first burn of the orbiter's Orbiter Maneuvering System (OMS) to continue refining Atlantis' orbit for a precision rendezvous and docking. The docking will occur at about 12:53 a.m. Sunday at an altitude of about 220 statute miles over the Russia and Kazakhstan border north of the Caspian Sea.
Lu, Malenchenko and mission specialist Dan Burbank will unpack, assemble and test spacesuits and checkout the tools Lu and Malenchenko will use as they work on the station's exterior sometimes about 110 feet above the orbiter. The space walk to connect electrical, communications and fiberoptic cables and install a magnetometer to the station will last about 6 and a half hours.
Tonight, mission specialist Rick Mastracchio will check out the remote manipulator system, and then he and cosmonaut Boris Morukov will prepare to transfer station equipment and supplies from the orbiter and the Russian Progress vehicle.
The next STS-106 status report will be issued at about 7:00 a.m. Saturday.
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