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Endeavour docks at International Space Station

world Updated: Jul 18, 2009 07:39 IST
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The US space shuttle Endeavour and its seven-member crew, including six Americans and one Canadian, have successfully docked at the International Space Station, NASA confirmed on Friday.

"Commander Mark Polansky docked space shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station's Harmony node at 1:47pm (1747 GMT) while flying 220 miles (354 kilometers) above the Gulf of Carpentaria," off Australia, NASA said.

The shuttle launched from Florida on Wednesday evening after five failed take-off attempts since June 13, including three since Saturday that were scrapped over bad weather conditions.

The docking maneuvers are very delicate because the two space vehicles approach each other at 28,000 kilometers (17,398 miles) per hour giving Polansky a margin of error of 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) to complete the procedure, NASA said.

Following leak checks, the hatch separating the two space vessels is expected to open 90 minutes after docking, at 3:43pm (1943 GMT), uniting the Endeavour and ISS crews for a welcome ceremony.

As the shuttle approached the ISS, Polansky photographed the underside of the Endeavour to discover whether takeoff caused any damage to the shuttle's heat shield.

The photographs, which will be sent to NASA in Houston for analysis, were taken after debris could be seen peeling away from the shuttle and then striking it during Wednesday's launch.

NASA officials have said there is not yet any cause for concern, but the photographs will be carefully examined to ensure the shuttle's heat shield remains intact.

The entry of Endeavour's crew aboard the ISS will bring the number of astronauts inside the floating space station to a record 13.