Today is docking day in space. The terminal initiation burn at 8:29 a.m. will put the shuttle on the final course to link up with the International Space Station at about 11:07 a.m.
Ferguson will fly Atlantis through an intricate approach for docking. After a series of jet firings to fine-tune the shuttle’s path, Atlantis will arrive at a point about 600 feet directly below the station at about 10:06 a.m. Ferguson then will perform the rendezvous pitch maneuver, a one-degree-per-second rotational “backflip” to enable Expedition 28 crew members to snap hundreds of high resolution photographs of the shuttle’s heat shield and other areas of potential interest. Imagery analysts will pore over the photos to determine the health of the shuttle’s thermal protection system.
Once the rotation is completed, Ferguson will fly Atlantis upward and in front of the station before slowly backing in for docking. At 1:19 p.m., hatches will be opened between the two spacecraft. Along with Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, shuttle Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim will join the Expedition 28 crew: Commander Andrey Borisenko and Flight Engineers Alexander Samokutyaev and Sergei Volkov of Russian, Satoshi Furukawa from Japan, and NASA’s Ron Garan and Mike Fossum.
The combined crew of 10 will begin more than a week of docked operations, transferring supplies and equipment to the station from Atlantis’ middeck and the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module, which will be transferred from the cargo bay and installed on the station’s Harmony node early Monday. Once 8,000 pounds of cargo are unloaded from Raffaello, it will be packed with waste items from the station and placed back in the cargo bay for return to Earth.