This story was updated at 7:37 p.m. EDT.
HOUSTON ? NASA?s space shuttle Atlantis berthed with the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday afternoon, ending a two-day chase to deliver new solar arrays to the orbital laboratory.
The high-flying linkup occurred on time at 3:36 p.m. EDT (1936 GMT), as the shuttle docked with the space station?s Destiny laboratory module.
"We?re looking forward to a great day and seeing our friends on the station," STS-117 mission specialist Clayton Anderson said before docking.
About one hour before docking, as Atlantis hovered about 600 feet (182 meters) below the station, STS-117 commander Rick Sturckow flipped the shuttle nose-over-tail in a nine-minute Rendezvous Pitch Maneuver, or RPM, to allow ISS Expedition 15 commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov to take high-resolution images of heat shields on the shuttle?s underbelly. Those images will be beamed down to mission control later today to look for signs of damage incurred during ascent.
Hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at about 5:20 p.m. EDT (2220 GMT), and were followed by a brief welcome ceremony that included presenting a set of STS-117 crew shirts as gifts for the Expedition 15 crew, NASA?s lead shuttle flight director Cathy Koerner said during an evening mission briefing.
?We had just a picture perfect rendezvous and docking,? Koerner said, lauding the grace with which Atlantis and the ISS came together. ?We made this look easy. To put that in perspective for you...we took a quarter-million pound vehicle today and we connected it with about a half a ton vehicle, and we did that all at 17,500 miles per hour.?
Atlantis and its seven-astronaut crew launched towards the ISS late Friday in a near-flawless liftoff from NASA?s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Busy night ahead
Before the shuttle and station astronauts sleep tonight, they will use Atlantis? robotic arm to haul the 17.5-ton Starboard 3/Starboard 4 (S3/S4) truss segment and solar arrays from the shuttle?s cargo bay and hand it off to the space station?s arm, where it will await installation on Monday on the first of three planned spacewalks.
The $367.3 million truss segments and solar arrays will be installed to the starboard side of the station?s main truss, which serves as a sort of metallic backbone for the orbital laboratory. Combined with a pair of portside solar wings already attached the station, the new arrays will lay the power foundation to support the addition of new modules and international laboratories to the ISS.
Anderson is also scheduled to relieve astronaut Sunita Williams, who has been aboard the station as Expedition 15 flight engineer since December.
On June 16, Williams will break a world record set by astronaut Shannon Lucid in 1996 for the most time spent by a woman in space during a single spaceflight.
?Records are made to be broken, so we look forward to the next one,? said shuttle program manager Wayne Hale. ?I?m sure we that will have greater endurance records in the future, and going greater distances and exploring new planets, and I?m sure that women will be a part of the team.?
NASA is broadcasting the space shuttle Atlantis' STS-117 mission live on NASA TV. Click here for mission updates and SPACE.com's video feed.
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: Space Station Power Up with STS-117
- STS-117 Power Play: Atlantis Shuttle Crew to Deliver ISS Solar Wings
- The Great Space Quiz: Space Shuttle Countdown
- Complete Shuttle Mission Coverage