STS-117's constructive stay at the International Space Station came to a close today when space shuttle Atlantis undocked. The two spacecraft parted ways at 10:42 a.m. EDT as they flew over the Coral Sea northeast of Australia.
After Pilot Lee Archambault backs the orbiter 450 feet from the station, he will perform a full fly-around to allow crew members to collect video and imagery of the station and its newly expanded solar wings. He will perform the final separation engine burn at 12:25 p.m.
Later in the day, Archambault and Mission Specialists Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson will use the shuttle robot arm and the 50-foot long Orbiter Boom Sensor System to conduct a late inspection of the thermal protection system.
The crew will spend Wednesday preparing for landing. Atlantis' first landing opportunity is at 1:54 p.m. Thursday at Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
During its stay at the station, which began June 10, the STS-117 crew continued the on-orbit construction of the station with the installation of the Starboard 3 and 4 (S3/S4) truss segment.
The crew installed the truss June 11 and conducted four spacewalks to activate the S3/S4 and assist in the retraction of solar array on the Port 6 truss. During the third spacewalk, the crew repaired an out of position thermal blanket on the left orbital maneuvering system pod.
Atlantis also delivered a new station crew member, Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson. He replaced astronaut Suni Williams, who is the new record holder for a long-duration single spaceflight for a woman. She arrived at the station in December with STS-116.