Atlantis and her crew have departed from the International Space Station (ISS) at 10:42am EDT, in preparation for their first attempts to land back on Earth this coming Thursday.
The undocking and flyaround did use – according to Mission Control sources – “greater than expected” RCS (Reaction Control System) propellant, and at least one FOD (Foreign Object Debris) was observed – both are being evaluated.
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As Atlantis moved away from the station complex, at a rate of two tenths of a foot per second, daylight broke over the ISS, casting a shadow of the orbiter on the P4 Solar Arrays Wings (SAW), as KU band video became available.
The beautiful sight was captured as Atlantis backed away to between 400 – 600 feet ahead of the flyaround of the station.
Atlantis started her flyaround at 500 feet seperation, as the two vehicles travelled over South America at 17,500mph.
Late inspections had been proceeding for most of the remainder of Flight Day 12, which have seen been concluded, while imagary experts evaluate the observed debris, seen shortly after undocking – which is believed to be ice from Atlantis.
Go for undock:
Go for STS-117 undocking was officially given by the IMMT (ISS Mission Management Team) after two confidence-building events, including the smoothly executed handovers between US and Russian motion control systems.
Following the successful repairs to the Russian computer systems onboard the ISS, Atlantis wasn’t required to stay docked for an extra day, allowing for her to continue with the plan drawn up after the two day mission extension.
The successful dynamic (firing) test of Progress thrusters at 10:28am EDT on Monday, confirming full stability and functionality of the recovered Russian TVM & TsVM computers in the Service Module (SM), and the earlier attitude maneuvering of the stack to complete the scheduled waste water dump from the Shuttle (9:00am), gave NASA managers the confidence they needed for undocking.
‘More good news today,’ wrote ISS manager Kirk Shireman during Monday’s MMT (Mission Management Team) – available on L2. ‘Delayed IMMT to evaluate the tests. Good translation to worksite 1 with the MT (needed for next flight).
‘Team has worked confidence building in the Russian system to be sure we are go for undocking. Monday morning had the Russian’s take attitude control after the water dump. Handed from Russian control to US thruster control and then CMG-MM.
‘Also tested out the SARJ on the truss and is currently in auto track. Have completed the confidence testing and the IMMT is ready for shuttle undocking. The Space Station program really appreciates all the help from the shuttle program who helped out during this tight spot. The dedication and desire to help out was outstanding.’
**Ride home through the fire and plasma of re-entry with Atlantis on STS-115 – And now also with Discovery on STS-116 – TWO Stunning high quality 2hr, 355mb videos – from deorbit burn to post landing**
Deputy Shuttle manager John Shannon concurred, noting a contingency of a 24 hour delay should there have been a problem overnight. This didn’t occur and Atlantis was approved to leave the station.
‘RSC Energia said the Russian tests were completely successful and go for undocking. If something happens between now and undocking would delay undocking by 24 hrs and work bringing up the redundant lanes and look at contingency undocking procedures that were developed.
‘This flight completed the space station railroad and now we have both SARJs working. This was a big flight with a great outcome.’
The plan for today is to undock, fly around (one lap) of the station, make a separation burn to 400 feet away from the station, before the start of late inspections later today.
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