SPACE SHUTTLE OPERATIONS

SPACE SHUTTLE OPERATIONS 1995

Launched February 3, 1995, flight STS-63, Orbiter Discovery, was highlighted by the first rendezvous with the Russian Mir space station (see page 10), but it also accomplished a number of other objectives. Among them were the third flight of the SPACEHAB module, a commercially developed space research laboratory located in the forward end of Discovery's payload bay (see page 50); and the operation of a free-flying astronomical research satellite, SPARTAN-204.

The STS-63 crew was commanded by James D. Wetherbee with Eileen M. Collins as pilot (she became the first woman to serve as pilot on a Shuttle mission). Also on board were four mission specialists: payload commander Bernard A. Harris Jr., Michael C. Foale, Janice Voss and cosmonaut Vladimir Titov, the second Russian to fly on the Shuttle as part of the Shuttle/Mir rendezvous and docking program.

SPARTAN stands for Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy; it is an observatory designed to obtain data in the far ultraviolet region of the spectrum from diffuse sources of light. Developed by Goddard Space Flight Center and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, SPARTAN is intended to provide easy and relatively inexpensive access to orbit for science experiments.

On STS-63, the SPARTAN mission was conducted in two phases. In the first, the crew used Discovery's robot arm to remove the SPARTAN spacecraft from its support structure in the payload bay, then pointed it at the Orbiter's tail to observe surface glow, and pointed it at a thruster to obtain far ultraviolet spectrographs of a thruster firing.

Upon completion of the rendezvous with Mir, the crew used the robot arm again to release SPARTAN-204 over the side of the Orbiter to operate independently in space. It flew for 40 hours, observing a variety of celestial targets, then Discovery maneuvered to a rendezvous with the satellite and retrieved it. Above, astronaut Foale (in center photo) prepares to grab SPARTAN with the help of payload commander Harris (right).

SPACEHAB-3 carried more than 20 experiments, among them an ASTROCULTURE payload for investigation of growing food plants for long duration space missions; examination of biological activity in microgravity by the BioServe Pilot Laboratory; research on carbohydrate-rich plants as space food; a test of "Charlotte," an experimental robotic device built by McDonnell Douglas Aerospace to demonstrate automated servicing of payloads; a microgravity examination of plant cell shapes and structures; additional research in protein crystal growth; and a demonstration of hardware for controlled liquid phase sintering experiments. In addition to the SPACEHAB investigations, other research conducted on STS-63 included the first of four Hitchhiker missions planned for 1995; Hitchhiker is a support system that provides power, data and command services to operate the experiments, STS-63 also conducted another test (the eighth) of the Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE), a major study of how flames spread in microgravity designed to improve knowledge of how flames spread on Earth. At right, astronaut Foale is checking the SSCE. Below, astronauts Harris and Voss are working a life sciences experiment; Harris, a physician, is checking Voss' biomedical harness to determine the response of muscles to gravity.

The extravehicular activity (EVA) performed by Harris and Foale was also experimental in nature. Their deployment and recapture of the SPARTAN satellite was an exercise in mass handling to increase NASA's experience base in preparation for orbital assembly of the International Space Station. They also evaluated modifications to the EVA suits designed to improve thermal protection from cold.

The longest Shuttle mission ever flown began on March 2,1995 with the launch of STS-67, Orbiter Endeauour. The mission, whose principal payload was the Astro-2 observation platform, lasted 17 days.

The crew of seven included five NASA astronauts and two civilian scientists. Commander of STS-67 was astronaut Stephen S. Oswald; the NASA crew included pilot William G. Gregory, payload commander Tamara E. Jernigan and mission specialists John M. Grunsfeld and Wendy B. Lawrence. The civilian payload specialists were Samuel T. Durrance, an astrophysicist with Johns Hopkins University and Ronald A. Parise of Computer Sciences Corporation.

The Astro observatory is a Shuttle-based astronomical system, mounted in the Orbiter's payload bay on two unpressurized Spacelab pallets. Its instruments include three ultraviolet (UV) telescopes aligned to each other on a single pointing instrument; the Johns Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope (HUT); the University of Wisconsin's UV Photo-Polarimeter Experiment (WUPPE); and Goddard Space Flight Center's UV Imaging Telescope (UIT). Astro-2 marked the second flight of the system; the first was flown in 1990.

Working in two teams, the crew supported round-the-clock Astro-2 observations of W sources. Typically, the commander or pilot maneuvered Endeavour to point Astro in the general direction of a target source; a mission specialist acquired guide stars and locked Astro into an optical hold on one of these stars; and a payload specialist operated the system's instruments during the observation. Several hundred sources were examined. At left, payload commander Jernigan is studying a display of data from the WUPPE experiment.

In addition to Astro, STS-67 carried several experiment packages in the Orbiter's pressurized mid-deck area, among them a protein crystal growth experiment, a Shuttle amateur radio experiment, and the Commercial Materials Dispersion Apparatus Technology Associates Experiment (CMIX-03). At left, astronaut Gregory is working on a pharmaceutical experiment in the middeck locker area. CMIX-03 included not only pharmaceutical but also biotechnology, cell biology, fluids and crystal growth investigations intended to explore ways in which micro-gravity can advance drug development and delivery for treatment of cancer, infectious diseases and metabolic deficiencies.

Another in-cabin experiment was the Middeck Active Control Experiment (MACE), a test platform designed to explore the effects of vibration on spacecraft instruments and structures in microgravity. Above, mission commander Oswald is monitoring the experiment; the MACE test platform, shown in upper foreground, is a five-foot composite beam with movable, simulated payloads at either end. During the mission, Oswald completed several hundred preprogrammed MACE tests.

Among other STS-67 research was a laptop-based Shuttle landing simulator to refresh flight crew experience during long duration missions; a communications experiment investigating the capabilities of the Tracking and Data Relay System (TDRS) with an eye toward eliminating some costly ground stations; and a comparison test of Endeavour's own navigation data with data supplied by the Navstar Global Positioning System constellation of satellites.

STS-67 was the second of eight Shuttle missions planned for 1995. The third was the historic STS-71 Atlantis/Mir docking (see page 10); Atlantis was to make a second docking with Mir in November.

The year's fourth mission was STS-70, a flight to deploy a new TDRS satellite that was in progress at publication time. Set for August launch was STS-69, a reflight of the Wake Shield Facility (see page 00) and a test of extravehicular activities related to assembly of the International Space Station. In September, STS-73 was to conduct a second series of U.S. Microgravity Laboratory experiments. The primary assignment of STS-72, targeted for December, was retrieval of a Japanese satellite.


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