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Discovery docks at International Space Station

Hard week of work ahead for 7-member crew

Various views of the docking sequence  

HOUSTON, Texas (CNN) -- The space shuttle Discovery gently latched onto the docking port of the International Space Station Friday afternoon (1:45 p.m. EDT) as the two spacecraft hurtled 250 miles above Kazakhstan.

"Houston, Discovery, we have capture," radioed one crew member.

It was the fourth shuttle docking at the fledgling station. NASA is planning another 35 shuttle visits over the next five years to build the station, estimated to cost between $60 billion-$100 billion. When complete, in 2006, the 16-nation project will have the interior volume of a 747 jumbo jet and stretch the length of a football field.

Commander Brian Duffy was at the controls of Discovery during the rendezvous and docking, flying the approach without the benefit of a radar range finding system. The latter system requires the use of a Ku band dish antenna, which mysteriously failed on Thursday.

In addition to its role as a radar, the Ku band antenna is designed to transmit and receive voice and data streams and TV signals.

The radar system is typically used by shuttle commanders during docking with the International Space Station. It provides accurate data on the relative distance between the two orbiting vehicles during certain phases of the rendezvous.

Shuttle crews employ several other systems to safely home in on the station: a "Star Tracker" that focuses on points of light (including docking lights on the station); two laser range finding systems; one that is built into the orbiter and another handheld device (not unlike a police speed detection device); and a camera attached to the docking port that aims at a visual target on the station.

  WEATHER FORECAST
 
  INTERACTIVE
 
  MESSAGE BOARD
 
  IN-DEPTH
 

Shuttle crews headed for the station routinely practice dockings in simulators without the help of Ku Radar data.

Discovery's crew will be able to communicate with ground controllers using S-Band satellite antennas lodged beneath the orbiter's heat shielding tiles. The S-Band system is capable of transmitting "slow scan" video images, akin to a slide show.

"Right now I would not bet you are going to get full motion TV back," said lead Flight Director Chuck Shaw. "I would put it in the irritant category, but its a shame because it (the TV) is fun to watch."

Engineers were uncertain what caused the failure, but the crew members were troubleshooting the problem.

The Ku band system has been a fairly reliable system for NASA, failing only once before -- on a Discovery mission in June 1998. During that mission Discovery performed the ninth -- and final -- shuttle docking at the Russian space station Mir. No TV images were beamed to Earth during the mission.

This is the 100th mission in space shuttle history. The multinational crew will perform four spacewalks and leave 18,000 pounds of hardware behind at the International Space Station.

They are attaching a piece of lattice-work structure (the Z-1 Truss) that will serve as the platform for the U.S. solar arrays and adding a docking port for future shuttle visits. Two pairs of astronauts will conduct the four consecutive spacewalks to connect the components to the station.

The mission is slated to last 11 days.



RELATED STORIES:
Shuttle Discovery zooms in on orbiting outpost
October 12, 2000
Shuttle soars into space for 100th time
October 11, 2000
NASA scrubs 3rd attempt to launch shuttle
October 10, 2000
Wind gusts force delay of 100th shuttle flight
October 9, 2000
Technical troubles push 100th shuttle launch to Monday
October 6, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Shuttle Orbiter Discovery (OV-103)
NASA
Human Space Flight (HSF) - International Space Station


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