Space shuttle Atlantis' crew will be getting down to the main objective of their mission today, as they temporarily install the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module (MPLM) on the International Space and begin unloading its contents.
The crew started their fourth day in space at 2:02 a.m. CDT, after being awakened by the Chumbawamba song "Tubthumping." It was played for mission specialist Sandy Magnus.
Magnus, along with pilot Doug Hurley, will be at the controls of the space station's robotic arm beginning at 4:09 a.m. to remove Raffaello from the shuttle's payload bay. They will install it on the station's Harmony Node 2 about 30 minutes later.
Once that's complete, Magnus will work with commander Chris Ferguson to prepare the module's hatch for opening at 12:39 p.m., after which the crew will begin the process to unload the 9,402 pounds of equipment and supplies it carried into space.
In addition, Ferguson and mission specialist Rex Walheim will begin the transfer of another 2,281 pounds of cargo brought up on Atlantis' middeck over to the space station.
Meanwhile, on the ground, flight controllers were able to confirm that the track of a piece of orbital debris they began watching on Saturday will not be a threat to the shuttle and station. No adjustments to the shuttle and station's orbit will be necessary to avoid the debris, which was identified as part of the Russian satellite Cosmos 375.
Each day that the final space shuttle mission is in flight, collectSPACE plans to highlight milestones and events from the space shuttle's history that also occurred on the same day over the past three decades. "Today in Space Shuttle History" will also note "lasts" being set by the STS-135 mission.
STS-135 Flight Day 4, July 11
1950 STS-50 payload specialist Dr. Lawrence DeLucas is born.
1985 Space shuttle Columbia is transported on the ground from its assembly facility in Palmdale, Calif. to nearby Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base for its ferry flight back to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Columbia had been in Palmdale for its first set of upgrades since becoming NASA's first space shuttle to fly in 1981.
2011 The last space shuttle cargo delivery module, the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module, is mated to the International Space Station.
Maneuvering Canadarm2 from the robotic workstation in the International Space Station's Cupola observation deck, STS-135 crew members Doug Hurley and Sandy Magnus grasped the Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module at 4:16 a.m. CDT. They lifted it out of Atlantis' cargo bay at 4:47 a.m. and berthed it to the Earth-facing port of the station's Harmony node at 5:46 a.m.
The 21-foot long, 15-foot diameter Raffaello is packed with 9,403 pounds of spare parts, equipment, and other supplies — including 2,677 pounds of food — that will sustain space station operations for a year. Raffaello has on board eight resupply stowage platforms, two intermediate stowage platforms, six resupply stowage racks and one zero stowage rack.
Sixteen bolts hold Raffaello firmly in place on Harmony's side. The crew will perform leak checks to verify a good seal between the cargo module and station before activating Raffaello and entering it later today.
Over the next several days, the astronauts will spend nearly 130 person hours transferring items from Raffaello into the station and more than 5,600 pounds of discarded station gear into Raffaello for return to Earth.
With Raffaello securely mated to the International Space Station, Atlantis crew members Chris Ferguson and Rex Walheim turned their attention to loading new software for one of the shuttle's three navigation computers that had failed prior to their rendezvous and docking with the station.
As ground controllers expected would occur after the software reloaded, Atlantis' General Purpose Computer No. 3 (GPC 3) is working again and back online.
The fact that the last time this very same problem was encountered was also on Atlantis with Walheim as a crew member allowed for a humorous space-to-ground exchange.
"They are talking down here that the GPC failure was exactly like the one they saw on [STS-122] and they mentioned that you were on that flight, too," radioed astronaut Dan Tani to Walheim from Mission Control. "And I don't care what they say, I don't think you had anything to do both those failures. I just want you know that I am on your side, buddy."
"Thanks for the help buddy. It seems strange up here without you," said Walheim in response. Tani returned to Earth on STS-122 after a stay on the space station.
"I'm up there with you, man," replied Tani. "But again, really, when I hear all those rumors, I'll quash them. I'll let them know that I am pretty sure you had nothing to do with it."
STS-135 mission specialist Sandy Magnus, whose last visit to the space station was as an Expedition 18 flight engineer during a 133 day stay that ended in March 2009, called down to Mission Control on Monday morning to announce an in-space reunion.
"For all you guys who worked Expedition 18, I would like to announce the return... of the socks!" exclaimed Magnus, showing off her toe socks.
According to a NASA spokesperson, Magnus had left the blue, white and pink striped socks on board the station when she departed two years ago and had found them again after coming back aboard the station Sunday.
"We got a great view, thanks," said Mission Control.
Atlantis and International Space Station crew members opened the hatch to the newly-attached Raffaello multi-purpose logistics module at 11:10 a.m. CDT and soon began the daunting task of transferring 9,403 pounds of spare parts, spare equipment and supplies to the space station.
Nearly 130 person-hours have been allocated over the remaining docked days to empty Raffaello and then reload it with more than 5,000 pounds of unneeded equipment for return to Earth.
The end of the space shuttle program was granted on Monday a one day reprieve.
Mission managers approved the addition of an extra day to space shuttle Atlantis' STS-135 mission. Atlantis is now scheduled to return to Earth to NASA's Kennedy Space Center on July 21 at 5:56 a.m. EDT, which is 42 minutes before sunrise.
"This is exactly the right thing to do on this mission," said LeRoy Cain, mission management team chair. "There's a lot of good work we can help the space station program with. If we had more time to give them, we'd probably do that as well."
The extra day will be inserted after Flight Day 8, extending the joint crew operations between the shuttle and International Space Station crews.
"I am sure we will fill it up in a very useful fashion for the station folks," said Atlantis' commander Chris Ferguson upon hearing the news.
"These guys have been outstanding house guests," said space station flight engineer Ron Garan. "We'd like them to stay as long as they want."
"Well, we'll see what we can do about that," astronaut Megan McArthur joked from Mission Control.
Mission managers also confirmed Monday that additional debris damage inspections will not be necessary while Atlantis is docked with the space station. (The crew will still perform inspections after undocking to check for any damage by micrometeoroids while in orbit.)
NASA's damage assessment team identified only five areas of interest, four of which were minor damage to thermal blankets.
"The one other item was a tile damage site — and it was relatively minor also," said Cain.
STS-135 Flight Day 4 drew to a close as the crews of the International Space Station (ISS) and Atlantis prepared for bed at 5:29 p.m. CDT and 5:59 p.m., respectively.
Shortly before the end of their workday, the four shuttle crew members and flight engineers Ron Garan, Mike Fossum, and Satoshi Furuakawa met for about an hour to review the procedures for Tuesday's spacewalk. Beginning about 7:45 a.m., Garan and Fossum will leave the station for the 6.5-hour outing.