HOUSTON – The space shuttle Discovery docked smoothly with the International Space Station, despite a hitch in its radar system Friday, the third day of its 11-day mission, setting the stage for the assembly of the 13-story orbiting outpost by Japan’s Koichi Wakata and six other crew members.
The crew will spend one week attaching two key components to the station.
During the final approach, commander Brian Duffy used a substitute star-tracking system instead of the radar, which broke down Thursday.
It was the first time for a shuttle to link up with another craft without using radar.
Shortly after the docking, four astronauts — Duffy, pilot Pamela Ann Melroy and two mission specialists — moved into the space station.
Wakata planned to move to the station Saturday, becoming the first Japanese to enter the outpost.
Installation of new elements to the space station was to begin Saturday, with Wakata playing a key role in assembly of the expanding complex by using the shuttle’s robot arm.
Wakata, a 37-year-old mission specialist, was to operate the arm to pluck a 9-ton truss from the shuttle cargo bay and mount it atop the station.
The truss will carry critical items to control the station’s attitude, communications, and thermal and power control systems.
Wakata also was to help deliver an additional docking port, called PMA-3, to the Unity connecting module on the station.
In addition, he will use the arm to hoist crew members to work locations during four rounds of spacewalking construction work starting Sunday.
Meanwhile, National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineers gave up fixing the shuttle’s primary television antenna, which is linked with the shuttle’s broken radar system.
This means the shuttle will not be able to beam television feeds to Earth, dealing a blow to Japanese television networks that were planning live coverage of the spacewalks and Wakata’s robot-arm operation.
The antenna malfunction on Thursday interrupted television signals to Earth, affecting some media events, including Wakata’s conversation with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.
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