Space Shuttle Atlantis docked with the International Space Station yesterday afternoon on its final voyage.

Space observers recorded a smooth mating of the shuttle with the orbiting outpost at 15:07 GMT, as the US prepares to wrap up the shuttle programme.

Before connecting with the International Space Station, the venerable vehicle did the customary backflip to allow station crew to photograph its heatshield. The pictures will be sent to ground controllers to check for any damage.

Atlantis is carrying the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module, loaded with spares and supplies. Pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialist Sandy Magnus will today use the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robot limb to shift the module from the shuttle's cargo bay to the station's Harmony node.

Atlantis launched on final mission

Ground-based flight controllers, meanwhile, are monitoring reports from the US Department of Defense’s Strategic Command that a piece of Soviet satellite COSMOS 375 may pass close to the ISS tomorrow afternoon.

NASA said yesterday: "The team expected updated tracking information following today’s docking to help determine if a maneuver using the shuttle’s thrusters is necessary to avoid the debris."

COSMOS 375 was destroyed after launch in October 1970, apparently as part of Soviet anti-satellite weapons testing.

Its remains form part of the roughly 500,000 pieces of tracked debris orbiting the Earth.