Shuttle commander Frederick "C.J." Sturckow, forced by a leaky steering jet to use Discovery's big maneuvering thrusters instead of preferred fine-control vernier engines, deftly guided the spaceplane to a flawless docking with the International Space Station Sunday night to cap a two-day rendezvous.
Approaching from directly in front of the laboratory complex as both spacecraft sailed 220 miles above the central Atlantic Ocean at 5 miles per second, the shuttle's payload bay docking port engaged its counterpart on the front end of the station's Harmony module at 7:54 p.m. CDT, about 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
Station and Houston, from Discovery, capture confirmed," astronaut Patrick Forrester radioed from the shuttle, CNET News reports.
According to Reuter, U.S. space shuttle Discovery arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday with food, equipment and new lab gear for the orbital outpost.
After nearly two days of traveling following its launch late Friday night, Discovery reached the Space Station at 8:54 p.m. EDT (0054 GMT Monday) as it sailed 225 miles (362 km) over the Atlantic.
"The entire rendezvous and docking was smooth as silk," said NASA mission commentator Rob Navias.
During their nine-day visit, the Discovery astronauts plan to unload more than seven tons of gear packed aboard the shuttle and conduct three spacewalks to help ready the $100 billion outpost for full-time science operations.
NASA hopes to complete the station, a $100 billion project of 16 countries, by the end of next year after six more shuttle flights. Construction began in December 1998.
Discovery will spend more than a week at the orbiting complex. Astronauts will perform three spacewalks to replace an ammonia tank and perform other outside maintenance, with the first one on Tuesday night.
Monday evening's action will involve lifting the huge cargo carrier out of Discovery's payload bay, using a robot arm, and attaching it to the space station.
This is only the second time 13 people have been together in orbit. The first was just last month during Endeavour's space station visit, The Associated Press reports.