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In the area of human space flight, the Space Shuttle program continued its goal of providing safe, reliable, and affordable access to space. In FY 1998, 28 crew members spent approximately 605 crewdays in orbit, including time spent by American astronauts aboard the Russian space station Mir. Also in FY 1998, the Shuttle successfully completed the ninth and last of its planned rendezvous missions to Mir. This milestone marked the completion of Phase I of the International Space Station (ISS) program. On this same mission, the Shuttle carried into orbit the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) payload. The cutting-edge AMS scientific payload found and measured highly charged particles.

The Space Shuttle program continued to fly more safely, reliably, and at lower cost than at any previous time in its history. Recent restructuring activities have resulted in operations cost reductions of more than 30 percent since 1992. The consolidation of Space Shuttle contracts into a single prime contract continued on pace with the incorporation of the Solid Rocket Booster production contract into the Shuttle Flight Operations Contract in FY 1998. The Phase I upgrades, to improve Shuttle safety and performance, neared completion in FY 1998 with the first launch of the Super Light Weight Tank. The program also scheduled final testing of the Block II Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) in preparation for its first flight on STS-96 in September 1999. The Block II SSME will require less maintenance between flights than previous engines and will deliver increased thrust so that, when combined with flight design changes, the Shuttle will be able to reach the altitude and inclination of the ISS orbit with as much as 17,200 pounds of additional payload. Phase II upgrades to improve supportability and combat obsolescence also progressed on schedule

Space Shuttle Columbia on its transportation platform   The Space Shuttle Columbia begins its rollout from the Vehicle Assembly Building for the April 1998 STS-90 mission, whose primary payload was the Neurolab experiments focusing on the effects of microgravity on the human nervous system.

During FY 1998, NASA and the Russian Space Agency (RSA) completed joint activities on the Shuttle-Mir program (Phase I), ending more than 2 years of U.S. astronaut presence aboard Mir in orbit. With the successful completion of the Shuttle-Mir program, a total of 17 successful crew member exchanges between the two countries occurred, with 10 cosmonauts on the Shuttle and 7 U.S. astronauts on long-duration missions on Mir. As a highly valuable precursor for the successful implementation of Phase II and III of the ISS program, Phase I provided significant benefits in four major areas:

  1. American and Russian experts had an opportunity to learn from each other on ways to work together on operating and maintaining a space station.
  2. NASA gained a better understanding of ways to conduct long-duration science in advance of planned research on the ISS.
  3. U.S. and Russian hardware, systems, and scientific aims have become closely integrated.
  4. ISS risks were reduced through lessons learned and a better understanding of joint operations, the spacecraft environment, rendezvous and docking, on-orbit repair, spacewalks, and hardware exchange.

Also on the ISS program, the Russian-built first element, Zarya (which is Russian for "sunrise"), was delivered to the launch site in Baikonur. The second major element, Unity (Node 1), along with two Pressurized Mating Adapters, all built by the United States, underwent final checkout and inspection at the Kennedy Space Center. Several other key elements, including the Z-1 Truss, a third Pressurized Mating Adapter, and the Integrated Electronics Assembly, were also delivered to Kennedy in preparation for a mid-1999 launch. At the end of FY 1998, NASA had completed 75 percent of its development activity, and its international partners had also made considerable progress. Although funding shortfalls in Russia continued to present challenges, RSA's work on the development of the Service Module continued. To address Russian government funding shortfalls, NASA continued to implement its contingency plans, established in 1997, and planned to proceed with the launch of its first two elements in late 1998.

In terms of robotic space flight, there were 29 successful U.S. Expendable Launch Vehicle launches in FY 1998. Of those, 3 were NASA-managed missions, 2 were NASA-funded/Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-licensed missions, 8 were Department of Defense (DoD)–managed missions, and 16 were FAA-licensed commercial launches. There were two launch vehicle failures—a U.S. Air Force-managed Titan IV-A and a commercially licensed Delta III. NASA collaborated with the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and Boeing in the failure investigations, corrective action, and return-to-flight process.

group photo of the astronauts and cosmonauts  
In June 1998, the STS-91 crew and the Russian Mir-25 crew pose for the traditional joint inflight Shuttle-Mir portrait in the Core Module of the Russian space station. Left to right are cosmonaut Valery Ryumin (who flew as a mission specialist on Discovery), mission specialist Wendy Lawrence, Shuttle commander Charles Precourt, Andrew Thomas (who spent more than 4 months on Mir), Mir commander Talgat Musabayev, mission specialist Janet Kavandi, Shuttle pilot Dominic Gorie, cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin, and payload commander Franklin Chang-Díaz. This was the last docking of the Shuttle-Mir program.

In the area of space communications, NASA's space and ground networks successfully supported all NASA flight missions and numerous commercial, foreign, and other Federal Government agency missions. Mission Control and Data Systems provided the operation of 15 on-orbit science missions, including launch and mission support for the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) and the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE). In FY 1998, NASA awarded a consolidated space operations contract to outsource NASA's space operations under a single contract. The contractor, Lockheed Martin, will manage all of NASA's data collection, telemetry, and communications operations supporting NASA's Earth-orbiting satellites, planetary exploration, and human space flight activities.

NASA continued to work with DoD and other agencies to develop a national architecture for satellite operations and to provide the radio spectrum allocations crucial to U.S. Government flight missions. NASA personnel also made significant improvements to NASA's mission control and data systems as well as ground networks, which contributed to several successful launches and significantly reduced operations staff for several orbiting missions. Internationally, NASA collaborated with colleagues from Japan, the European Space Agency (ESA), Germany, and France to foster the cooperative and reimbursable use of communications networks.

NASA's Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications (OLMSA) supported a total of 850 ongoing noncommercial investigations during FY 1998. Commercial investment in space products and service development took significant steps forward, as demonstrated by an increase from $35 million to $48 million of industry-leveraged resources. Also, 28 new industry partners joined the Commercial Space Centers, and OLMSA researchers received 11 commercial patents.

Findings in the life and microgravity sciences ranged from fundamental information on human physiology to basic results in combustion science. For example, Dr. Kenneth Baldwin published research that has clarified the role of nerve connections and the thyroid gland in the development of muscle. Dr. Gerald Faeth's research in combustion science suggested the existence of a "soot paradigm," which may supply improved methods for controlling soot processes in applications such as aircraft propulsion systems, diesel engines, and furnaces. Based on protein crystal growth in space, NASA's Dr. Alex MacPherson established a new benchmark in the study of viruses by publishing a structure of the satellite tobacco mosaic virus at far greater resolution than had ever been published before.

OLMSA's premier mission of FY 1998 was the flight of the Neurolab mission, which addressed both basic neuroscience questions and applied studies related to the astronauts' responses to space flight. Among the many "firsts" on this mission were three experiments that used state-of-the-art technology to record nerve activity in human and nonhuman subjects.

Also flown in FY 1998 was the fourth U.S. Microgravity Payload (USMP-4) mission. OLMSA researchers used this mission to conduct a series of experiments in physics and materials science. The initial results included validation of theories of physical behavior on a quantum mechanical scale when matter is confined to only two dimensions during the Confined Helium Experiment. The mission also allowed researchers to measure the growth speed and crystal size of a material that serves as a model for industrially useful metals.

In FY 1998, the Phase 1 NASA-Mir research program included seven biomedical experiments. These evaluated the effects of space flight on sleep patterns, vestibular and immune function, the risk of developing kidney stones, changes in bone mineral density, changes in muscle mass and strength, cardiovascular system function, and interactions among crew members and ground support.

FY 1998 was another auspicious year for NASA's Space Science Enterprise. It began with the successful launch of the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn on October 15, 1997. The Galileo and Mars Surveyor spacecraft made new discoveries in our solar system, such as ancient riverbeds on Mars, a possible icy subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon, Europa, and volcanic fireworks on Io, another Jovian moon. In addition, for the first time in 25 years, NASA was once again studying the Moon with the Lunar Prospector mission.

Other space science missions yielded fascinating data as well. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory discovered that solar flares produce seismic waves in the Sun's interior that closely resemble those created by earthquakes on our planet. The TRACE mission revealed how magnetic fields control the structure of the Sun's corona and produce arch-like structures filled with million-degree gas.

On August 27, 1998, a group of scientists led by NASA observed an intense wave of gamma rays emanating from a catastrophic magnetic flare on a mysterious star 20,000 light years away. The waves from this "magnetar" struck Earth's atmosphere, and their impact has begun providing important clues about some of the most unusual stars in the universe.

The Hubble Space Telescope continued its impressive performance, revealing the first optical glimpse at what is possibly a planet outside our solar system—one that apparently has been ejected into deep space by its parent stars. Located 450 light years away in the sky (the deepest Hubble image thus far) within a star-forming region in the constellation Taurus, the object seems to lie at the end of a strange filament of light. This suggests that it may have been flung away from the vicinity of a newly forming pair of binary stars.

For the Earth Science Enterprise (formally Mission to Planet Earth), FY 1998 was a year of great accomplishment. TRMM was launched successfully in November 1997 and exceeded expectations by providing unprecedented insights into rainfall cloud systems in the tropics and subtropics. TRMM's all-weather, sea-surface temperature data from September 1998 indicated a possibly waning La Niña event, a cooling phase of El Niño. In August 1998, TRMM provided spectacular images of Hurricane Bonnie over the Atlantic Ocean by capturing towering clouds extending up to 59,000 feet above the hurricane's eye. Earth scientists believe that the scientific understandings resulting from this mission will revolutionize knowledge of how storms and hurricanes form and dissipate. Earth scientists also completed an experiment off the coast of Florida, the Convection and Moisture Experiment, to measure the hurricane's structure, environment, and changes in intensity. This effort coincided with the occurrence of Hurricanes Bonnie, Danielle, Earl, and Georges.

The Earth Science Enterprise also created the new Applications, Commercial, and Education Division. This new organization reflects an increased emphasis on partnerships between the commercial remote-sensing industry and the NASA-sponsored science research community. NASA's Earth Science Enterprise also began a planning process to enhance international and interagency partnerships for the follow-on Earth Observing System (EOS) missions. NASA also made significant progress in planning the next generation of instruments and spacecraft for future Earth Science Enterprise missions.

During FY 1998, NASA's Aero-Space Technology Enterprise (formerly called the Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology Enterprise) continued its work in the "Three Pillars for Success" initiative—Global Civil Aviation, Revolutionary Technology Leaps, and Access to Space. Within these pillars, NASA defined 10 long-range technology goals. These goals address the Nation's critical aerospace needs, which include productivity, the protection of the environment, low-cost access to space, and most notably aviation safety.

Within the Aviation Safety program, NASA tested the airborne Light Intersection Direction and Ranging (LIDAR), which demonstrated the capability of precisely detecting the air turbulence level 1 kilometer ahead of the airplane. This provides sufficient time for the crew to avoid rough air or to prepare for an appropriate evasive action. NASA researchers conducted flight tests to improve our understanding of aircraft tailplane icing and developed a new, environmentally safe anti-icing fluid that is so environmentally safe that it has been referred to as "food grade."

The Aeronautics Base Research and Technology program continued its successful list of accomplishments. The Pathfinder Plus solar-powered remotely piloted vehicle was flown to a world-record altitude of greater then 80,000 feet. In a cooperative project with the Russian Central Institute of Aviation Motors, NASA achieved the first extended supersonic combustion in flight, using a scramjet flown to Mach 6.6. NASA researchers also flight-tested two types of advanced electric control-surface actuators on the F-18 Systems Research Aircraft.

In the High Speed Research program, NASA successfully completed a series of flight tests of a Russian Tu-144 supersonic transport to validate critical engineering prediction capabilities and learn about supersonic transport design practices and operational characteristics. NASA researchers obtained aerodynamic, aerothermodynamic, and heat-transfer data at speeds in excess of Mach 2 to validate computational fluid dynamic and heat transfer codes. Other experiments measured the effectiveness of techniques to reduce cabin noise, pilot handling qualities, and slender wing ground effects.

The Advanced Subsonic Technology program made several important accomplishments. In terms of reducing commercial transport emissions, advanced combustor concepts demonstrated a 50-percent reduction in nitrous oxide (NOx) in flame tube tests, and these showed promise for achieving the program's 70-percent NOx reduction goal. NASA researchers also participated in a joint international field campaign to probe the North Atlantic flight corridor to study the chemical, radiative, and dynamic interactions between Earth's background atmosphere and aircraft exhaust.

Research in noise-reduction technology progressed as well. Active noise-control tests in a high-fidelity engine simulator indicated that it is technically feasible to reduce fan tones by as much as 10 decibels. NASA aeronautics researchers also developed concepts that indicate great promise in significantly reducing flap edge airframe noise. In developing ways to lessen the noise impact on passengers, researchers conducted flight tests that demonstrate an optimized active control system to reduce the interior noise of propellers on commuter aircraft.

During FY 1998, the Space Transportation Technology program achieved several major milestones. The X-33 flight demonstrator successfully completed its Critical Design Review, verifying the feasibility of the integrated design prior to major hardware construction and integration. The dual-lobe liquid oxygen tank, the first major X-33 flight component, was delivered to the X-33 final assembly area in Palmdale, California. Workers also broke ground for the X-33 launch site.

The X-34 program also completed many key milestones in FY 1998. The program completed the first flight wing, the test fuselage, the qualification testing on the liquid oxygen tanks, and the delivery of the first tank. Technicians also completed the development of the generator component and the injector development testing, while work on the Fastrac engine continued on pace. Finally, the propulsion test article and Fastrac engine assembly were delivered to NASA's Stennis Space Center for testing.

In the area of international relations, the most significant new agreements were those associated with the ISS. In January 1998, the United States, Russia, Japan, 10 nations of Europe, and Canada signed the Intergovernmental Agreement for the ISS. In parallel, NASA memoranda of understanding (MOU) were signed with the Canadian Space Agency, ESA, RSA, and the government of Japan, outlining additional details of the cooperation. In October 1997, another related agreement was signed between NASA and the Brazilian Space Agency, which makes Brazil a participant in the program. Other agreements signed during this period provide for cooperation in aeronautics, space science, Earth science, and life and microgravity sciences.

NASA actively participated in many international aerospace forums. These included various coordination mechanisms for strategic planning in life and microgravity sciences, space science, Martian exploration, orbital debris research and observations, and Earth observation programs. In addition, NASA led the U.S. delegation to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and supported the Legal Subcommittee and full COPUOS meetings. A major focus for COPUOS was the planning for Unispace III, a United Nations conference on space, held in July 1999 in Vienna, Austria. NASA was actively involved in drafting background papers and report material, as well as in planning for various technical sessions.

Several significant international projects achieved the major milestone of launch in late 1997. The Cassini mission to Saturn—with the orbiter provided by NASA, the Huygens Probe provided by ESA, and the communications system provided by the Italian Space Agency—was launched in October 1997. The U.S.-Japanese TRMM was launched in November 1997 and has returned substantial data during its highly successful operations. Virtually all Space Shuttle missions during this period included crew members from other nations, foreign payloads, or both. The Shuttle-Mir cooperation between NASA and RSA was brought to a successful close in June 1998. In support of NASA's research programs, numerous aircraft campaigns were conducted around the world for space and Earth science observations.

overhead photo of technicians preparing Cassini  
This shows workers installing three radioisotope thermoelectric generators on the Cassini spacecraft at Cape Canaveral Air Station's Launch Complex 40. Cassini was successfully launched on October 25, 1997; its target is Saturn. NASA provided the orbiter, ESA contributed the Huygens Probe, and the Italian Space Agency delivered the communications system.

Overall, safety remained one of NASA's fundamental or core operating values. In support of this value during FY 1998, NASA implemented a multifaceted approach to measure and improve the health, stability, and capability of its safety processes. By combining customer agreements, annual planning, and process and performance assessment into a unified effort, NASA strengthened safety insight. Independent assessments, conducted by NASA safety and mission assurance experts, provided valuable input for several NASA programs, including the Space Shuttle, the ISS, the Super Light Weight Tank, the X-33 and X-34, Cassini, the Chandra X-ray Observatory (formerly the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility), and the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. NASA extrapolated valuable safety and mission assurance information from the Shuttle-Mir program and incorporated these lessons into the ISS. NASA has fortified its risk management implementation through policy, training, and tools. NASA safety personnel developed the Quantitative Risk Assessment System, a new software tool for advanced computer-assisted quantitative or probabilistic risk assessment. This software, generic enough to support any NASA program, already began supporting decisionmaking on Space Shuttle safety-enhancing upgrades. During FY 1998, three NASA Centers (Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center) were certified to ISO 9001 as part of NASA's continuing effort to implement this quality management standard. In addition, the Langley Research Center became the first Federal installation to receive "Star" certification under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Voluntary Protection Program.

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