The Shuttle Endeavour lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center this afternoon, carrying a multi-national crew and a complex Canadian-built robotic arm to the International Space Station (ISS).
Commander Kent Rominger, Pilot Jeff Ashby and Mission Specialists Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency, John Phillips, Scott Parazynski, Umberto Guidoni of the European Space Agency and Yuri Lonchakov of Rosaviakosmos blasted off on time from Launch Pad 39-A at 1:41 p.m. Central time as the ISS sailed over the Indian Ocean south of India. Aboard the station, Expedition Two Commander Yury Usachev and Flight Engineers Jim Voss and Susan Helms were told of Endeavour’s launch as it lifted off from the pad. Approximately 20 minutes later, the three crew members took a few minutes out from routine maintenance work and preparations for Endeavour’s arrival to watch a video feed of the launch uplinked to them by ISS flight controllers in Houston through the station’s KU-band communications system.
Less than nine minutes after launch, Endeavour had reached its preliminary orbit and began its pursuit of the station for a docking Saturday morning. The seven astronauts began to configure systems for on-orbit operations and opened the shuttle’s cargo bay doors before the start of an eight-hour sleep period tonight at 6:41 p.m. Central time.
Aboard the ISS, all systems continue to function normally as Usachev, Voss and Helms ready the complex for their first visitors since beginning their expedition one month ago. On Monday, a Russian Progress resupply vehicle was jettisoned from the aft docking port of the Zvezda module, enabling the station crew to undock its Soyuz return capsule from the nadir port of the Zarya module yesterday and fly it to a redocking with Zvezda in a 21-minute maneuver. That cleared the Zarya docking port for the arrival of the Soyuz rotation “taxi” crew at the ISS later this month. The taxi crew will deliver a fresh Soyuz capsule for the Expedition crew members’ use as an emergency return vehicle. The Soyuz vehicles need to be rotated approximately every six months.
Hadfield and Parazynski are scheduled to venture outside Endeavour Sunday for the first of two scheduled space walks to unfold the huge booms of the 57-foot-long Canadarm2 and to route power to the device, which will be mounted on the Destiny Laboratory for future station assembly work. Canadarm2 is scheduled to “walk off” its pallet and attach itself to a grapple fixture on Destiny Monday, where it will receive power, data and commanding from the Expedition crew operating at robotic workstations inside Destiny.
Housed in Endeavour’s cargo bay is the Italian Space Agency-provided Raffaello cargo module, which is carrying several tons of equipment for the Expedition Two crew and racks of hardware for installation in Destiny which will be used for scientific research in the future. Raffaello, which is the second of three such logistics modules, will be berthed to the ISS Monday so its contents can be transferred to the station throughout the course of docked operations.
Endeavour is circling the Earth in excellent shape as it flies in an orbit inclined 51.6 degrees to either side of the Equator. The next STS-100 mission status report will be issued Friday morning following the wakeup call to Endeavour’s astronauts from Mission Control, which is scheduled at 2:41 a.m. Central time.
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