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The torn insulation blanket on the port side of the Shuttle Atlantis is shown in this video grab from the orbiter's end effector camera.

ripsts117_1
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Credit: NASA

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Atlantis' is due to arrive at the ISS at about 19:38 GMT (3:38 p.m. EDT ) for a week-long visit in which the shuttle crew will install extra solar panels on the space station. The shuttle is carrying a 14-metre long, 16,183 kg aluminium structure that will become part of the station's structural backbone and includes the solar panels.

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NASA Engineers Examine Torn Thermal Blanket On Atlantis
It's not an area of significant concern just yet... but NASA is keeping a close eye on an exposed segment of the space shuttle Atlantis' aluminium skin, located atop the left orbital manoeuvring system pod near the shuttle's vertical stabiliser.

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missing tile sts117
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Credit: NASA

missing tile sts117b
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Credit: NASA

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With a 10-centimetre gap in the space shuttle Atlantis' heat-protecting blanket not appearing to be an urgent problem Saturday, the crew readied themselves for what NASA called a delicate ballet with the International Space Station.
Then the shuttle will enter a weeklong embrace Sunday with the orbital outpost.
Atlantis' seven astronauts spent much of Saturday on a mandatory inspection of the shuttle's delicate heat tiles, outer edges and blankets for problems similar to the kind that caused the fatal Columbia accident in 2003. As of Saturday afternoon, no glaring problems were reported.

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 Torn thermal blanket found on NASA Shuttle Atlantis      
After a smooth countdown and an on-time launch on Friday, NASAs STS-117 astronauts will inspect a torn thermal blanket of their Space Shuttle Atlantis on Saturday.
NASA managers initially stated that the foam did not appear to hit the orbiter. They also said that there is less of a concern for foam damage to the orbiter when it comes off after the separation of the solid rocket boosters (SRBs), which occurs at about 2 minutes into the flight. This piece came off around 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the flight.
This fuel tank is the same one that was hit by about 4,000 pieces of hail in March 2007, which caused a three-month delay in the launching of STS-117. NASA engineers patched the fuel tank, which visually contained white patches on the traditional orange-coloured outer covering of the ET.

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Space Shuttle Atlantis
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NASA's Launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS 117 on June 8, 2007.  Carring the S3/S4 Truss Segment on Space Station Assembly Mission 13A.



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NASA officials will likely be poring over videotapes of Friday night's launch over the next few days to determine if falling debris during the trip to orbit could have damaged space shuttle Atlantis.
At least two debris events were seen in the first minutes of launch, and at least one of them happened before the separation of the solid rocket boosters.

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The space shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew lifted off Friday from NASA's Kennedy Space Centre at 7:38 p.m. EDT to continue construction of the International Space Station.
Shortly before launch, on behalf of the entire crew, Atlantis' Commander Rick Sturckow thanked the teams that help make this launch possible, and then added, "See you in a couple of weeks."
During the 11-day mission, designated STS-117, the crew will add a new structural component to the station, deploy a new set of solar arrays and retract an existing array. Similar construction work was conducted on the previous two shuttle missions.
The mission will deliver and install the 17.5 ton S3/S4 truss segments. This latest addition to the station's backbone will extend the right side of the truss and includes a new set of solar arrays. When unfolded, the 240-foot arrays provide additional power to the station in preparation for the arrival of new science modules from the European and Japanese space agencies. The crew also will retract a solar array to allow for the rotation of the new arrays to track the sun.
The station's newest resident also is travelling aboard Atlantis. Astronaut Clayton Anderson will join the Expedition 15 crew. Sunita Williams, who has been aboard the station since December, will return to Earth with the Atlantis crew. Anderson is scheduled to return to Earth on space shuttle Discovery's STS-120 mission in October.
Atlantis' crew is Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John "Danny" Olivas, Jim Reilly and Anderson.
Atlantis originally was targeted for launch in March, but a hail storm damaged foam insulation on the shuttle's external fuel tank and forced managers to roll the spacecraft off the pad to make repairs.

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Space shuttle Atlantis launched successfully from the Kennedy Space Centre Friday night, despite questionable weather conditions at two overseas landing facilities.

sts117_age17
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Credit NASA

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