Discovery's astronauts were awakened at 4:20 p.m. Central today by Kenny Loggins' "Danger Zone," played in honor of Commander Kent Rominger, an alumnus of the Naval Fighter Weapons School of "Top Gun" movie fame. Rominger will guide Discovery to the first-ever Shuttle docking with the International Space Station this evening. Discovery is planned to dock with the station at 11:24 p.m. Central.
At wake-up, the Shuttle trailed the station by about 120 nautical miles and was closing in by about 41 nautical miles with each orbit of Earth. The final phase of rendezvous will begin when Discovery reaches a point about eight nautical miles directly behind the station and fires its engines in a terminal phase initiation burn at 8:35 p.m. Central. The TI burn, as it is called, will put the Shuttle on a course directly toward the station during the next orbit of Earth. As Discovery moves within about a half-mile of the station, Rominger will take over manual control of the Shuttle's approach, flying Discovery from controls in the aft cockpit. Discovery will arrive at a point about 600 feet directly below the station at about 10:05 p.m. Central, and Rominger will then begin a half-circle of the orbiting outpost. Discovery will pass about 350 feet in front of the station and then move to a point about 250 feet directly above it at about 10:32 p.m. Central.
Rominger will then begin to descend toward the station and, at about 10:37 p.m. Central, hold position at a point about 170 feet away. Rominger will stationkeep at that distance for about 15 minutes to allow the station to move within range of Russian ground communications stations before continuing the approach. At 11:13 p.m., Rominger will again briefly hold position at a point about 30 feet from the station to ensure the Shuttle and station docking mechanisms are precisely aligned. Docking is expected about 11 minutes later with the Shuttle contacting the station at a slow rate of about a tenth of a foot per second.
During the rendezvous, Pilot Rick Husband will assist Rominger in controlling Discovery's approach. Mission Specialists Tammy Jernigan and Ellen Ochoa also will assist with the rendezvous and docking, with Jernigan operating the Shuttle's docking mechanism and Ochoa assisting with the rendezvous navigation.
After docking, Ochoa and Jernigan will perform a hatch leak check. Later, Mission Specialists Dan Barry, Jernigan and Canadian astronaut Julie Payette will prepare the middeck for Saturday's spacewalk. Discovery's crew will not open the hatch to the Unity module and enter the station until Sunday, a day after the spacewalk is completed.
Space station flight controllers planned to command the station into the orientation for docking - Unity toward space and the Zarya module toward Earth - at about 7 p.m. Central to prepare for Discovery's arrival.
The next mission status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Central on Saturday.