STS -115 (English Space Transportation System) is the designation for a flight mission of the U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis ( OV -104 ) from NASA. The launch took place on 9 September 2006. It was the 116th Space Shuttle mission and the 27th flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. This 19th flight of a U.S. space shuttle to the International Space Station (ISS) was dedicated since the Columbia disaster and the further expansion of the ISS first operational shuttle flight.


  • Brent Jett (4th space flight), Commander
  • Christopher Ferguson ( first space flight), Pilot
  • Steven MacLean ( second space flight), Mission Specialist (CSA / Canada)
  • Daniel Burbank ( second space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Joseph Tanner ( fourth space flight), Mission Specialist
  • Heidemarie Stefanyshyn - Piper ( first space flight ), Mission Specialist

Mission overview

This shuttle mission was expanded for the first time since STS -113 in November 2002, the International Space Station ( ISS). Main payload was the P3/P4-Träger with the solar modules 2A and 4A. This collector is the second of four panels intended to supply the energy for the ISS. In three outboard activities P3/P4 segment was mounted. In addition, 360 kg and 470 liters of water equipment to the station and 490 kg no longer required parts were brought back ( completed experiments, equipment, waste) back to Earth.


Originally, when the mission was scheduled for May 2003, NASA wanted to use the Orbiter Endeavour as. After the disaster of the Columbia in the spring of 2003, the U.S. space agency decided to modernize the Endeavour - since December of the year the ferry at Kennedy Space Center (KSC ) was rebuilt.

The experience gained during STS -114 meant that it was decided in August 2005 to wait until the next mission for another year. This could be used " return-to -flight " missions discovery for both. On the other hand, the more modern Atlantis it was thus possible to carry the STS -115 mission. This orbiter was supposed to for the second test flight (STS -121 ) are used in the fall of 2005 and had even already assembled for launch.

During the preparations for mission STS -115, a new method for mounting the filler between the heat protection tiles was developed. This is to prevent strips are shifted at the start, protrude from the heat shield and so can lead to aerodynamic changes to the underside of the orbiter, as was done with STS -114.

Beginning of June 2006 was started in the Vehicle Assembly Building ( VAB ) to the assembly of the solid rocket boosters, which was completed three weeks later. The external tank for Atlantis arrived in the second week of June in Florida. So should be in the event of an accident of the STS-121 mission in mid- August, a rescue flight is possible. This would have carried the mission designation STS -300.

The external tank was not fully completed, since a rapid availability was required. For example, had to be replaced the level sensor (ECO ) sensors. The manufacturer Lockheed Martin sent several dozen employees of Louisiana to KSC to have run the last work on site.

Carelessness meant that the external tank was damaged on June 19. Workers clashed with a portable work platform against the tank. An approximately one centimeter thick piece of insulating foam from splintered. When repairing the place was dripping water from the insulation. Presumably, the water came in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the workshops at New Orleans. It was drilled a small hole in the insulation, so that the water could flow. It was then smoothed.

After the preparatory work has been completed on the orbiter Atlantis was transferred on 24 July 2006 in the VAB. There, the assembly was performed with the external tank and the two solid rocket boosters. The system was rolled out on August 2 to 6.8 km distant launch pad 39B after the project had to be postponed twice due to bad weather.

In early August, the payload, the lattice structure of P3/P4, loaded into the cargo bay of Atlantis and a week later, the occupation by the final countdown rehearsal. After the two-day flight readiness acceptance, called the Flight Readiness Review, all systems of Atlantis were declared ready for launch on August 16. At the same time August 27, the tentative launch date has been confirmed.

NASA ordered on 18 August to a two-day repair because it was not clearly verifiable whether the Ku- band antenna was properly fastened. The antenna is located on the starboard side of the payload bay directly behind the cockpit and is responsible for the main part of the communication between the Space Shuttle and the ground station. Although the 150 -kilogram aerial had never caused problems since the maiden flight of the orbiter, revealed a recently conducted review of accompanying documentation that was not certain that the four mounting screws had the prescribed length. NASA engineers suspected that two screws are shorter and thus a breakaway of the antenna at the start would be possible, which could have catastrophic consequences. This very difficult repair was successfully completed on August 20.

Mission History

First start attempt

The countdown began on 24 August 2006. Previously met the crew at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida a. At the beginning of the countdown, the weather forecast from NASA were evaluated as good, there was a 70 % chance of good weather. Until one day before the scheduled launch this chance shrank to 40%. In addition, the launch pad on August 25, was struck by lightning, so various systems had at the Orbiter again be reviewed, which led to delays. For these reasons, the launch was initially postponed by one day later by another day.

NASA had feared even on 27 August, having to postpone the start until the end of October, as the tropical storm Ernesto was approaching to Florida. A day later it was decided that the shuttle on August 29 in the safe assembly hall ( VAB) back down. Shortly before reaching the VAB the ferry but was stopped and transported back to the launch pad. Meteorologists had now given the all clear; the tropical storm would be according to the latest weather forecasts no danger to the space shuttle, as Ernesto had weakened, it said. A new launch date was not informed at.

Originally, the launch window was only open until September 7, where there was a possibility to start a ten minute period daily. NASA had indeed (in theory) move the possibility to send the shuttle until September 13 to the ISS, but a start could after 7 means that Roscosmos had originally planned for September 14 flight of Soyuz TMA -9 need. But we wanted to avoid that Shuttle and Soyuz docked with the ISS at the same time, there may not invest in the station for safety reasons is one of the spaceships, while the other is coupled. In addition, a start after September 18 would have meant that the Soyuz TMA -8 capsule at night would have had to return to the earth what we wanted to prevent.

NASA and Roscosmos finally agreed on August 30 to extend the launch window until 8 September. This was achieved because Roscosmos postponed the launch of the Soyuz rocket on 18 September.

As the Kennedy Space Center was reopened on August 31, after the storm had moved over, noted the NASA technicians that the damage was minimal. Immediately, preparations were resumed for the start and set a new date with the 6th of September.

Second start attempt

On September 3, the second countdown began this mission. At 76 hours, he was this time six hours longer, to give engineers more time to respond to unexpected problems. On the eve of the six -member crew arrived at Kennedy Space Center. The start date was again postponed twice after the resumption of the countdown due to technical problems with the coolant pump in one of the three fuel cells and finally set at the September 8. On September 7, NASA decided to stick to the schedule, although the problem was not solved with the fuel cell. The decision was unanimous, after a long discussion.

On September 8, a problem with one of the ECO fuel sensors was also found in the outer tank. Less than an hour before the scheduled date of the launch was canceled again and shifted by 24 hours. To avoid having to move the mission until the end of October, NASA decided to make another attempt at starting on September 9.

Start and coupling

The start of the 116th shuttle mission took place on 9 September 2006 at 15:14:55 UTC.

The second day of flying and thus the first full day in space began with the traditional Wecksong for the astronauts. They played " Moon River " for the commander Brent Jett. 18 hours after the start of the team began to review the Space Shuttle with the OBSS - Inspektionsarm for possible damage. A large part of the working day spent so astronauts to inspect especially the wing leading edges and Orbiternase. This initial investigation showed that no defect in the sensitive heat shield could be detected, although had broken pieces at the start of the insulating foam from the external tank.

On September 11, at 10:48 UTC, the shuttle docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Previously, the Atlantis had a slow rotation of 360 ° performs in 180 meters distance across the transverse axis to give the ISS crew the ability to make high-resolution images of the underside of the orbiter. Good one and a half hours after the coupling, the hatches between ISS and shuttle were opened at 12:30 UTC.

Work on the ISS

Three hours after docking the lattice structure of P3/P4 was lifted to 13:45 UTC with the gripper arm of the orbiter from its payload bay. At 14:52 UTC, the structure was handed over to the ISS robotic arm, where they remained until the next day. Was controlled arm of the station of Mission Specialist Steve MacLean, who described the transfer as " Canadian handshake " because both manipulators come from Canada.

This mission was the first time a method is used that is designed to simplify and shorten the preparation for spacewalks ( EVAs ). So far, breathed the shuttle astronauts a few hours before the EVA pure oxygen at reduced pressure ( 703 hPa ) before they put their spacesuits. This time -tested NASA an approach which they call " camp " means. For this purpose, the two astronauts went to sleep on the eve of EVA in the U.S. Quest airlock. During sleep, the bound in the tissue nitrogen so was eliminated to prevent decompression sickness. This saves valuable oxygen ( it does not have a whole section at partitioning ) and time because the necessary preparation is done almost as an afterthought. In the spring of 2006, the procedure should be tested for suitability as Bill McArthur and Jeff Williams spent one night at the Quest module. The attempt, however, had to be canceled after the astronauts were awakened by two false alarms.

On the fourth flight day (September 12 ) was the first of three planned extravehicular activities ( EVAs ) on the program. After the two astronauts Stefanyshyn - Piper and Tanner had switched their spacesuits at 9:17 UTC on internal power supply, they left the ISS on the quest module. Previously, the delivered grid structure P3/P4 had been brought from Canadarm2 to their final position. As einrastete the last of four large retaining clips at 7:48 UTC the new segment was fixed to the P1 carrier. Tanner and Stefanyshyn - Piper joined in just six and a half hours, the 17 power and data cables between the arms and removed protective coverings. In addition, they brought the boxes with the two folded solar modules in the position required for extension. The two mission specialists worked so quickly that they could even perform some of the upcoming for the next day EVA tasks. Only once Tanner was inattentive and let it float a screw. He had just removed a cover when he slipped with the screwdriver and the screw with washer in space disappeared. The withdrawal ended after 6 hours and 26 minutes around 15:43 UTC.

The second EVA of the mission began 24 hours after the first. This time worked Dan Burbank and Steve MacLean at the new boom of the space station. The two astronauts left on 13 September against the airlock Quest 9:05 UTC. They prepared in seven hours, the two solar panels in front of their work. Burbank and MacLean removed the protective cover and the transport fixtures. Above all, they adjusted the Sonnennachführungsmechanismus. This short SARJ (Solar Alpha Rotary Joint) said device ensures that the two solar panels are always tracks the sun. One of the six screws securing SARJ was stuck so that only the common muscle strength of both EVA worker could solve them. As Mr Tanner at the first exit was also this time the two mission specialists a screw lost when they removed a thermal protection. The piece floated away and but came not into the SARJ mechanism, leading to the failure of which could have led. The EVA ended after 7 hours and 11 minutes at 16:16 UTC.

On the sixth day of flying (14 September ), the solar panels were deployed. This means that the panels do not tilt during the unfolding, you went before gradually. First, the engineers began in the control around 9:00 UTC, auszufalten the port module 4A up to half. Then we went with the Steuerbordpaneel 2A before the same. At 11:08 UTC Solar Module 4A was fully extended, 2A was at 12:44 UTC fully unfolded. The unrolling began 70 minutes later than planned, because one of the two SARJ engines had difficulties. After the tracker had been prepared the day before for their task, ground controllers had tested their orientation in Houston. Here, a software problem had occurred in one of the control motors.

On September 15, Stefanyshyn - Piper and Tanner got out for the third outdoor use of the mission. Could leave you with a 45 minute delay, the air lock but only. While the two mission specialists " camped " as early as three days before in quest, there had been problems with the power supply of the module. The pump for regulating the air pressure fell out for a short time. At 10:00 UTC could eventually Tanner and Stefanyshyn - Piper begin the final EVA of the mission. On the program were last working on the new solar panels as well as the salvage of the MISSE - container a basic research experiment, which had since the beginning of August 2005, P6- carriers. 13:05 UTC they left the radiator of the solar module P4 extend and then replaced a faulty antenna on the S1 element. In addition, they mounted an antenna that is designed to improve the quality of television pictures of the astronauts helmet cameras. The withdrawal ended at 16:42 UTC after 6 hours and 42 minutes.

The eighth mission day (16 September ) began for the astronauts with a non-working time. In the further course of the day cargo was reloaded and held the mandatory joint press conference both teams.


On September 17, at 10:27 UTC, the bulkhead between the ISS and Atlantis were closed. There was a tightness test between the two spaceships. In addition, the crew of the shuttle thanked the Control Panel for the good work. After 6 days, 2 hours and 2 minutes, the orbiter docked at 12:50 UTC on the space station. Before the final orbiter separated from the station, he flew 120 meters once around the ISS. The crew made ​​detailed photo and video shooting and could see the result of their work.

As mentioned at the beginning of the flight crew checked the on the tenth day of flying (18 September ) was again the heat shield their spaceship. For this, the 15 - meter long OBSS Inspektionsarm was used which was connected to the robot arm of the shuttle. In this way, it should be ensured that the Atlantis was not taken during their stay in orbit of micrometeorites. The more hour procedure revealed no damage.

15 hours after the Atlantis had separated from the station, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, the new long-term crew to the ISS.

Just seven hours later, the crew of the space station had to contend with a defective electron - oxygen generator. From the device somewhat caustic potash had escaped and had a strange odor spread, the alarmed the three astronauts. The situation was back to normal after three quarters of an hour.

On September 19, the crew of the orbiter was preparing for the imminent return until the astronauts were informed to 14:45 UTC of the flight line, the planned for the next day landing had to be postponed. Bad weather and a mysterious flying object that had been discovered during the inspection of video recordings in the immediate vicinity of the orbiter, NASA forced the planned for September 20, landing at 24 hours to lay. What it was in the article, we do not know, said the ground control.

The recorded against 6:45 UTC object was small, dark, rectangular and flew with the same speed and the same direction below the ferry. A camera in the open payload bay of Atlantis had filmed the object that flew between the orbiter and the Earth. Nine hours later, reported the team of another object that the Mission Specialist Dan Burbank had seen with his own eyes and that could be photographed. It should also have been " quite small " and would have moved away from the shuttle. Houston decided to postpone the landing by one day because you wanted to find out what origin had these objects. The technicians at NASA suggest that these were parts that had detached from the spacecraft. The question is however, whether they were from vital areas such as the heat shield.

For the twelfth day of flying (September 20 ), therefore, a re-inspection of the orbiter was ordered. Already during the previous sleep period of the astronauts, NASA engineers had begun an initial review: The robotic arm ferry ( RMS) was positioned over the open payload bay. With the RMS cameras were sought from the top of the Space Shuttle. Shortly after the early morning wake-up call, the crew began the in-depth review of the spacecraft state. It only requires the RMS and its cameras were used. The Flugleitzentrum was of the opinion that their resolution is high enough to make changes to the ferry in the magnitude of the previously sighted objects. The inspection was inconclusive to end after four and a half hours.

To make sure that nothing was overlooked, you repeated the procedure with the Inspektionsarm. Counter 13:15 UTC all areas were sampled. These assessment promoted not unusual to light on the space shuttle. Nevertheless, again three flying debris were observed in the vicinity of Atlantis. For further analysis, all sampling data were transmitted to Houston.

Counter 15:45 UTC gave Wayne Hale, the head of the shuttle program, the green light for a landing the next day. We have evaluated and determined that the Atlantis (especially the heat shield ) is in excellent condition carried out by the team inspections. Hale explained that they had indeed still can not determine the cause of the mysterious objects, but they would not come from a major re-entry area of the ferry.

After twelve days in orbit, the crew of the orbiter on September 21 ushered in the return to Earth. Scheduled lit at 9:14 UTC on the Indian Ocean, the braking thrusters for two and a half minutes ( deorbit burn ). 52 minutes before sunrise put the Atlantis on time at 10:21:30 UTC on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center, and a minute later came to a halt. The six astronauts left three quarters of an hour later the Space Shuttle. That same afternoon, the Atlantis was in its assembly hall ( Orbiter Processing Facility ) rolled, where it was prepared for their next space flight.

On 6 October, NASA announced that damage by a micro- meteorite was found during routine follow-up of the orbiter at the Kennedy Space Center. The impact was in the radiator right cargo door and had a diameter of 2.7 millimeters. The foreign body penetrated the 13 -millimeter-thick aluminum sheet metal, while the payload bay was opened. On the other hand, he stepped back from damage while the material in a one-inch wide range, leaving a 7 -millimeter tear and a tiny hole of 0.8 millimeters. According to the NASA Space Shuttle team or no risk to have passed.