Friday, November 20, 2009

Atlantis arm grabs second batch of spare parts

Atlantis astronauts have grappled the second of the two large platforms packed with spare parts that they launched into space Monday.

They installed the first platform -- technically called Express Logistics Carrier-1, or ELC-1 -- on the International Space Station shortly after docking with the outpost Wednesday.

This morning, Atlantis robotics specialist Leland Mevin (left in red hat), working at a console inside the station's Destiny lab and assisted by mission specialist Randy Bresnik, guided Atlantis' 50-foot robotic arm to the back of the shuttle payload bay and grabbed hold of ELC-2.

The maneuver sets the stage for the hardware to be handed off to the space station's robotic arm before its planned installation Saturday on the starboard side of the station's football field-length structural backbone.

The move had been scheduled for around 2:30 this afternoon.

But Flight Day 5 schedules are being tweaked, since managers determined that time set aside for further heat shield inspections isn't needed.

In addition to the robotics work, that means more time devoted to transferring 2,200 pounds of equipment and supplies carried up in the shuttle's middeck over to the station.

The installation of the spare parts carriers -- weighing more than 27,000 pounds combined -- is the mission's primary goal, helping to ensure the station can survive after NASA retires the shuttle.

Atlantis commander Charlie Hobaugh and pilot Barry Wilmore participated in three media interviews just after 6 this morning. Another round is planned at 7:28 a.m. with Melvin and mission specialist Dr. Bobby Satcher.

Click here to open a NASA TV video player and watch all the day's activity live.

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