Space Launch Activities
Space Shuttle Missions
During FY 1995, NASA successfully completed seven Space Shuttle missions, the most since the record of eight in 1985. The year began with the landing of Space Transportation System (STS)-68, which was launched at the end of FY 1994. This mission was followed by, in order of flight, STS-66, STS-63, STS-67, STS-71, STS-70, and STS-69.
The launch of STS-68 on the orbiter Endeavour occurred on September 30, 1994, and it was on orbit at the beginning of FY 1995. Its primary payload was the Space Radar Laboratory-2 (SRL-2). Scientists used images produced by the radar's instruments to detect seasonal and human-made changes that occurred in the 6 months since SRL-1 flew on another Space Shuttle mission. In addition, scientists used SRL to study the surface beneath the Sahara Desert sands to confirm the existence of ancient riverbeds and to produce three-dimensional terrain maps through a technique that experts hope to refine in creating an early warning system for earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Another element of the SRL payload was the Measurement of Air Pollution from Satellite experiment. This instrument compared the distribution of carbon monoxide in the Earth's lower atmosphere against the data taken on three previous flights. After a highly successful 11-day mission, STS-68 landed at Edwards Air Force Base (EAFB) on October 11, 1994.
The first complete mission of FY 1995 began on November 3, 1994, with the launch of STS-66 (Atlantis). The flight carried the third Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science (ATLAS-3) along with the German Space Agency-provided Cryogenic Infrared Spectrometers and Telescopes for the Atmosphere- Shuttle Pallet Satellite (CRISTA-SPAS-1) and the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet (SSBUV) payload. The objective of this set of scientific instruments was to collect temperature and trace element data for the Earth's middle atmosphere and data that measure the energy input from the Sun into the Earth system. After successfully completing all payload operations, STS-66 landed at EAFB on November 14, 1994.
STS-63, launched on February 3, 1995, had special significance as a precursor and dress rehearsal for the series of missions to rendezvous and dock with the Russian space station Mir planned for FY 1995-1997. It validated the flight operations techniques involved in the rendezvous, with Discovery approaching within 40 feet of Mir, then backing off to about 400 feet and performing a flyaround. Equally important, it exercised and demonstrated the coordination of the mission control teams at Houston and Moscow. The 6-person crew included the second Russian cosmonaut to fly on the Space Shuttle. After completion of the Mir activities, the Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy (SPARTAN) free-flying spacecraft was deployed to make astronomical observations in the far ultraviolet spectrum. The mission also included the third operation of the commercially developed Spacehab module, with its array of technological, biological, and other scientific experiments performed for university, industry, and Government organizations across the Nation. Two of the flight crew performed a spacewalk to test spacesuit modifications and demonstrate large-object handling techniques in preparation for the upcoming assembly of the International Space Station. STS-63 landed at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on February 11, 1995, to complete its 8-day mission.
On March 2, 1995, the launch of STS-67 (Endeavour) began the second flight of the Astro payload. Astro's objective was to obtain scientific data on astronomical objects in the ultraviolet region of the spectrum. Three telescopes, taking observations in complementary regions of the spectrum, gathered data that will add to scientists' understanding of the universe's history and the origins of stars. During the mission, one telescope performed flawlessly, and the performance of the rest of the observatory exceeded prelaunch expectations. As a result, all of Astro's mission objectives were met. After setting a new mission duration record of 16.6 days, STS-66 landed at EAFB on March 19, 1995.
STS-71 lifted off from KSC on June 27, 1995, to begin the series of flights to dock with the Russian space station Mir. The docking itself took place on June 29, with Atlantis remaining docked for 5 days. The 7-person crew included two Russian cosmonauts who remained onboard Mir after Atlantis returned to Earth. Two other cosmonauts and the American astronaut who had flown to Mir aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 15, 1995, returned to Earth in Atlantis, making it the second eight-person Shuttle crew. While docked, the crew conducted a series of biomedical measurements in support of experiments begun months before on Mir, in such areas as cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, neurosensory research, hygiene, and sanitation. The mission demonstrated the very successful operation of the Russian-designed docking system, which was based on the concepts used in the Apollo-Soyuz test program flown in 1975. The crew also delivered water and other supplies to Mir and brought back to Earth equipment no longer needed. Atlantis landed at KSC on July 7, 1995, to complete its 10-day mission.
Liftoff for STS-70 (Discovery) occurred on July 13, 1995. The primary objective of this flight was to deploy the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-G). The deployment of this satellite in a geosynchronous orbit marked the completion of NASA's TDRS system. This system provides communication, tracking, telemetry, data acquisition, and command services that are essential to Shuttle and other low orbital spacecraft missions. The STS-70 crew also performed a number of important middeck experiments, including the Physiological and Anatomical Rodent Experiment sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This experiment looked at the effects of space flight on the behavior, circadian rhythms, and development of muscle, nerve, and bone in rats. The research should contribute to a better understanding of basic physiological processes and could provide insight into a range of medical challenges on Earth. Other onboard experiments included the growth of protein crystals for use in pharmaceutical research and the investigation of a new technique for encapsulating a drug in a biodegradable polymer that allows for the controlled time release of the drug. The STS-70 mission also marked the first flight of the new Block I Space Shuttle main engine. This engine features improvements that increase the stability and safety of the Shuttle's main engines. STS-70 landed at KSC on July 22, 1995.
STS-69 was launched on September 7, 1995, carrying a 5-member crew. The mission included deployment of the Wake Shield Facility which, flying separately from the Shuttle Endeavour, produced an "ultra vacuum" in its wake, allowed experimentation in the production of advanced, thin film semiconductor materials. The SPARTAN spacecraft also was deployed and later retrieved with two instruments for investigations of the Sun's coronaan ultraviolet spectrograph and a white light imaging coronagraph. Scientists planned to compare SPARTAN data with data from the Ulysses spacecraft (launched in October 1990), which is observing the Sun from high above its north pole. Another SPARTAN instrument measured the extreme ultraviolet solar flux, while another made far ultraviolet observations of a torus around Jupiter associated with its moon Io. Toward the end of the mission, another spacewalk confirmed improvements in the thermal performance of the spacesuits and added to the knowledge base needed for assembling the International Space Station. The 11-day mission ended with Endeavour landing at KSC on September 18, 1995.
Curator: Lillian Gipson|
Last Updated: September 5, 1996
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