(Above) This painting depicts North American Rockwells’ 1969 (Phase A) design for the Space Shuttle.
(Above) This painting depicts North American Rockwells’ 1969 (Phase A) design for the Space Shuttle.
FACT: The empty weight of a Space Shuttle orbiter is about 185,000 pounds.
NASA launched a record 9 Shuttles in 1985, more than any other year. If all had gone according to plan 1986 would have been an even busier year, with 15 Shuttle launches.
The closest NASA has come to matching the 1985 launch rate was in 1992 & 1997. Eight Shuttle missions were launched in each of those years.
Enjoy this NASA mission patch collection from the Space Shuttle’s busiest year in history: 1985
This was the first mission dedicated to the Department of Defense. The U.S. Air Force Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster was deployed and met the mission objectives.
The TELESAT-l (ANIK C-1) communications satellite was deployed attached to the payload assist module (PAM-D) motor. SYNCOM IV-3 (also known as LEASAT-3) was also deployed but the spacecraft sequencer failed to initiate the antenna deployment, spin up and ignition of perigee kick motor. The mission was extended two days to make certain the sequencer start lever was in the proper position. Griggs and Hoffman performed a space walk to attach Flyswatter devices to the remote manipulator system.
The primary payload was Spacelab-3. This was the first operational flight for the Spacelab orbital laboratory series developed by the European Space Agency
Three communications satellites, all attached to the Payload Assist Module-D (PAM-D) motors, were deployed: MORELOS-A, for Mexico; ARABSAT-A, for Arab Satellite Communications Organization; and TELSTAR-3D, for AT&T.
Primary payload was Spacelab-2. Despite abort-to-orbit, which required mission replanning, mission declared success. Special part of modular Spacelab system, the Igloo, located at head of three-pallet train, provided on-site support to instruments mounted on pallets.
Three communications satellites were deployed: ASC-1, for American Satellite Company; AUSSAT-1, an Australian Communications Satellite; and SYNCOM IV-4, the Synchronous Communications Satellite. ASC-1 and AUSSAT-1 both attached to Payload Assist Module-D (PAM-D) motors. SYNCOM IV-4 (also known as LEASAT-4) failed to function after reaching the correct geosynchronous orbit. Fisher and van Hoften performed two extravehicular activities (EVAs) totaling 11 hours, 51 minutes. Part of time spent retrieving, repairing and redeploying LEASAT-3, which had been deployed on Mission 51-D. Middeck Payload: Physical Vapor Transport Organic Solid Experiment (PVTOS).
STS-51-J Mission Patch The launch was delayed 22 minutes, 30 seconds due to a main engine liquid hydrogen prevalve close remote power controller showing a faulty ‘on’ indication. This was the second classified mission dedicated to the Department of Defense.
STS-61A Mission Patch The dedicated German Spacelab (D-1) mission was conducted in a long module configuration, which featured a Vestibular Sled designed to give scientists data on the functional organization of human vestibular and orientation systems. Spacelab D-1 encompassed 75 numbered experiments. Other objectives: Global Low Orbiting Message Relay (GLOMR) satellite deployed from Get Away Special canister.
Three communications satellites were deployed: MORE LOS-B (Mexico), AUSSAT-2 (Australia) and SATCOM KU-2 (RCA Americom). MORELOS-B and AUSSAT-2 were attached to the Payload Assist Module-D motors, SATCOM KU-2 to a PAM-D2 designed for heavier payloads.
Two experiments were conducted to test assembling erectable structures in space: Experimental Assembly of Structures in Extravehicular Activity (EASE) and Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structure (ACCESS). The experiments required two space walks by Spring and Ross lasting five hours, 32 minutes, and six hours, 38 minutes, respectively. Middeck payloads: Continuous Flow Electrophoresis System (CFES); Diffusive Mixing of Organic Solutions (DMOS); Morelos Payload Specialist Experiments (MPSE) and Orbiter Experiments (OEX). In payload bay: Get Away Special and IMAX Cargo Bay Camera (ICBC)
(Above) This painting is an artist’s impression of the Ulysses spacecraft mated with its solid rocket booster drifting away from the Space Shuttle Discovery. The booster was used to push Ulysses out of Earth orbit towards Jupiter. Ulysses used Jupiter’s gravity to hurl it into an orbit that takes it over the Sun’s polar regions, an area not visible to Earth-based observers.
Five identical general-purpose computers aboard the orbiter control space shuttle vehicle systems. Each original GPC is composed of two separate units, a central processor unit and an input/output processor. All five GPCs are IBM AP-101 computers. Each CPU and IOP contains a memory area for storing software and data. These memory areas are collectively referred to as the GPC’s main memory.
The central processor controls access to GPC main memory for data storage and software execution and executes instructions to control vehicle systems and manipulate data. In other words, the CPU is the ”number cruncher” that computes and controls computer functions.
The IOP formats and transmits commands to the vehicle systems, receives and validates response data from the vehicle systems and maintains the status of interfaces with the CPU and the other GPCs.
The IOP of each computer has 24 independent processors, each of which controls 24 data buses used to transmit serial digital data between the GPCs and vehicle systems, and secondary channels between the telemetry system and units that collect instrumentation data. The 24 data buses are connected to each IOP by multiplexer interface adapters that receive, convert and validate the serial data in response to discrete signals calling for available data to be transmitted or received from vehicle hardware.
During the receive mode, the multiplexer interface adapter validates the received data (notifying the IOP control logic when an error is detected) and reformats the data. During the receive mode, its transmitter is inhibited unless that particular GPC is in command of that data bus.
During the transmit mode, a multiplexer interface adapter transmits and receives 28-bit command/data words over the computer data buses. When transmitting, the MIA adds the appropriate parity and synchronization code bits to the data, reformats the data, and sends the information out over the data bus. In this mode, the MIA’s receiver and transmitters are enabled.
The first three bits of the 28-bit word provide synchronization and indicate whether the information is a command or data. The next five bits identify the destination or source of the information. For command words, 19 bits identify the data transfer or operations to be performed; for data words, 16 of the 19 bits contain the data and three bits define the word validity. The last bit of each word is for an odd parity error test.
The main memory of each GPC is non-volatile (the software is retained when power is interrupted). The memory capacity of each CPU is 81,920 words, and the memory capacity of each IOP is 24,576 words; thus, the CPU and IOP constitute a total of 106,496 words.
The hardware controls for the GPCs are located on panel O6. Each computer reads the position of its corresponding output , initial program load and mode switches from discrete input lines that go directly to the GPC. Each GPC also has an output and mode talkback indicator on panel O6 that are driven from GPC output discretes.
Each GPC power on , off switch is a guarded switch. Positioning a switch to on provides the computer with triply redundant power (not through a discrete) by three essential buses-ESS1BC, 2AC and 3AB-which run through the GPC power switch. The essential bus power is transferred to remote power controllers, which permits main bus power from the three main buses (MNA, MNB and MNC) to power the GPC. There are three RPCs for the IOP and three for the CPU; thus, any GPC will function normally, even if two main or essential buses are lost.
Each computer uses over 600 watts of power. GPCs 1 and 4 are located in forward middeck avionics bay 1, GPCs 2 and 5 are located in forward middeck avionics bay 2, and GPC 3 is located in aft middeck avionics bay 3. The GPCs receive forced-air cooling from an avionics bay fan. There are two fans in each avionics bay but only one is powered at a time. If both fans in an avionics bay fail, the computers will overheat and could not be relied on to operate properly for more than 20 minutes if the initial condition is warm.
Each GPC output switch is a guarded switch with backup , normal and terminate positions. The output switch provides a hardware override to the GPC that precludes that GPC from outputting (transmitting) on the flight-critical buses. The switches for the primary avionics GN&C; GPCs are positioned to normal , which permits them to output (transmit). The backup flight system GPC switch is positioned to backup, which precludes it from outputting until it is engaged. The switch for a GPC designated on orbit to be a systems management computer is positioned to terminate since the GPC is not to command anything on the flight-critical buses.
The output talkback indicator above each output switch on panel O6 indicates gray if that GPC output is enabled and barberpole if it is not.
Each GPC receives run , stby , or halt discrete inputs from its mode switch on panel O6, which determines whether that GPC can process software. The mode switch is lever-locked in the run position. The halt position for a GPC initiates a hardware-controlled state in which no software can be executed. A GPC that fails to synchronize with others is moded to halt as soon as possible to prevent the failed computer from outputting erroneous commands. The mode talkback indicator above the mode switch for that GPC indicates barberpole when that computer is in halt.
In standby, a GPC is also in a state in which no software can be executed but is in a software-controlled state. The stby discrete allows an orderly startup or shutdown of processing. It is necessary, as a matter of procedure, for a GPC that is shifting from run to halt to be temporarily (more than one second) in the standby mode before going to halt since the standby mode allows for an orderly software cleanup and allows a GPC to be correctly initialized without an initial program load. If a GPC is moded from run to halt without pausing in standby, it may not perform its functions correctly upon being remoded to run. There is no stby indication on the mode talkback indicator above the mode switch; however, it would indicate barberpole in the transition from run to standby and run from standby to halt.
The run position permits a GPC to support its normal processing of all active software and assigned vehicle operations. Whenever a computer is moded from standby or halt to run, it initializes itself to a state in which only system software is processed (called OPS 0). If a GPC is in another OPS before being moded out of run and the initial program has not been loaded since, that software still resides in main memory; but it will not begin processing until that OPS is recalled by flight crew keyboard entry. The mode talkback indicator always reads run when that GPC switch is in run and the computer has not failed.
Placing the backup flight system GPC in standby does not stop BFS software processing or preclude BFS engagement; it only prevents the BFS from commanding.
The IPL push button indicator for a GPC on panel O6 activates the initial program load command discrete input when depressed. When the input is received, that GPC initiates an IPL from whichever mass memory unit is specified by the IPL source , MMU 1 , MMU 2 , off switch on panel O6. The talkback indicator above the mode switch for that GPC indicates IPL.
During non-critical flight periods in orbit, only one or two GPCs are used for GN&C; tasks and another for systems management and payload operations.
A GPC on orbit can also be ”freeze-dried;” that is, it can be loaded with the software for a particular memory configuration and then moded to standby. It can then be moded to halt and powered off. Since the GPCs have non-volatile memory, the software is retained. Before an OPS transition to the loaded memory configuration, the freeze-dried GPC can be moded back to run and the appropriate OPS requested.
A simplex GPC is one in run and not a member of the redundant set, such as the BFS GPC. Systems management and payload major functions are always in a simplex GPC.
A failed GPC can be hardware-initiated, stand-alone-memory-dumped by switching the powered computer to terminate and halt and then selecting the number of the failed GPC on the GPC memory dump rotary switch on panel M042F in the crew compartment middeck. Then the GPC is moded to standby to start the dump, which takes three minutes.
Each CPU is 7.62 inches high, 10.2 inches wide and 19.55 inches long; it weighs 57 pounds. The IOPs are the same size and weight as the CPUs.
The new upgraded general-purpose computers, AP-101S from IBM, replaced the existing GPCs, AP-101B, aboard the space shuttle in mid-1990.
The upgraded GPCs allow NASA to incorporate more capabilities into the space shuttle orbiters and apply more advanced computer technologies than were available when the orbiter was first designed. The new design began in January 1984, whereas the older GPC design began in January 1972.
The upgraded computers provide 2.5 times the existing memory capacity and up to three times the existing processor speed with minimum impact on flight software. The upgraded GPCs are half the size and approximately half the weight of the old GPCs, and they require less power to operate.
The upgraded GPCs consist of a central processor unit and an input/output processor in one avionics box instead of the two separate CPU and IOP avionics boxes of the old GPCs. The upgraded GPC can perform more than 1 million benchmark tests per second in comparison to the older GPC’s 400,000 operations per second. The upgraded GPCs have a semiconductor memory of 256,000 32-bit words; the older GPCs have a core memory of up to 104,000 32-bit words.
The upgraded GPCs have volatile memory, but each GPC contains a battery pack to preserve the software when the GPC is powered off.
The initial predicted reliability of the upgraded GPCs is 6,000 hours mean time between failures, with a projected growth to 10,000 hours mean time between failures. The mean time between failures for the older GPCs is 5,200 hours-more than five times better than the original reliability estimate of 1,000 hours.
The AP-101S avionics box is 19.55 inches long, 7.62 inches high and 10.2 inches wide, the same as one of the two previous GPC avionics boxes. Each of the five upgraded GPCs aboard the orbiter weighs 64 pounds, in comparison to 114 pounds for the two units of the older GPCs. This change reduces the weight of the orbiter’s avionics by approximately 300 pounds and frees a volume of approximately 4.35 cubic feet in the orbiter avionics bays. The older GPCs require 650 watts of electrical power versus 550 watts for the upgraded units.
Thorough testing, documentation and integration, including minor modifications to flight software, were performed by IBM and NASA’s Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory in NASA’s Avionics Engineering Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center.
NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center will be conducting the final planned space shuttle main engine test at 2 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, July 29,2009.
The 520-second test ends a 34-year era of space shuttle main engine testing at the facility. Stennis engineers conducted their first space shuttle main engine test in 1975. The first shuttle mission was launched in 1981. Since then, 126 missions have flown, all with main engines tested by Stennis. Seven flights remain before the space shuttle fleet is retired.
The primary work at Stennis has been space shuttle main engine testing, but the center also is helping NASA prepare for the next era of human spaceflight. Between 2007 and 2008, Stennis conducted component testing as part of early development of the J-2X engine for NASA’s Constellation Program. The J-2X will be tested at simulated altitudes up to 100,000 feet on the 300-foot A-3 test stand currently under construction at the center.
(Above) This 1970 artist’s concept illustrates the use of the Space Shuttle, Nuclear Shuttle, and Space Tug in NASA’s Integrated Program.
This integrated program was a result of the Space Task Group’s recommendations for more commonality and integration in the American space program.
The only fully developed and deployed hardware from 1970′s Integrated Program are the Space Shuttle and the Space Station. The Nuclear Shuttle, and Space Tug were never taken beyond the paper stage.
ANSWER: No, you cannot. The crew cannot hear the sonic booms (there are two of them) when the Orbiter passes through Mach 1 and becomes subsonic over Cape Canaveral.
The booms are the interpretation of the human ear on the ground when hit by the expanding shock waves at the nose and at the tail of the Shuttle Orbiter. These shocks happen when pressure of the air stream around the Shuttle changes too abruptly to be able to dissipate (i.e. spread out) in accordance with the (slower) natural ability of the air to handle it – its local “speed of sound”.
These shocks would appear as a cone each, with the object generating it at its point, and spreading out behind it while being dragged along by it. There’s a shock generated by the nose and another by the tailing edge of the tail fin. When the bottom portions of these conically spreading wakes hit the ground, the ear drum perceives the sudden pressure change as a boom (it’s more like a crack, really – thus: CRACK — CRACK always announces the Shuttle a few minutes before it lands). If you measure the pressure jumps, their signature look like the letter “N”, and that’s why aerodynamicists call the phenomenon the “N wave”.
Since the crew is inside the cabin and not subjected to the expanding shock wave, it cannot hear the booms.
For 50 years, NASA’s been famous for counting backward from 10 to zero. But a final countdown is now under way that will stand out among them all.
After 126 space shuttle missions, only eight remain before the fleet is scheduled to retire. That’s eight flights remaining to use the unique capabilities of the shuttle to finish construction on the International Space Station and prepare it for life after shuttle. Each flight is unique and extremely complicated. Attention to detail and planning will be needed to be successful. There are no easy flights remaining and there may be pauses in this countdown that will ensure the highest chance of mission success. The shuttle will fly each flight when it’s ready.
Take the time to look and really study the remaining shuttle flights. Here’s a close up look at the countdown of flights:
The International Space Station has been growing steadily over the past few years, but the one thing it still doesn’t have is a porch. STS-127 will take care of that.
Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver the external facility for Japan’s Kibo module during that mission, completing the Japanese complex on the space station and providing a science platform outside the station walls.
And if the international flavor of the cargo isn’t enough, it will be the first shuttle mission to visit the station after its expansion to a six-person crew, when the station will have representatives from all five international partners on board.
“It just brings a lot of different nations together,” STS-127 Commander Mark Polansky said. “I look at space and what we’ve done with the International Space Station as a wonderful example of how we can cooperate. We all have a common goal, and we all work together. We all have cultural differences, and somehow we put all that aside and we get the job done.”
The installation of the new external facility will be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate all that.
“You’ll have this truly integrated operation, where you’ve got the Canadian robotic arm holding the new big piece of Japanese hardware, brought up by a United States vehicle,” said Holly Ridings, the lead space station flight director for the mission. “If you think about the integration of all those parts and pieces, it’s really amazing how far we’ve come.”
With the increasing size of the space station crew comes an increasing amount of crew time available to be spent on science. STS-128 will bring up new projects for them to spend that time on.
Tucked inside the multi-purpose logistics module to be carried up inside Discovery’s cargo bay will be two new experiment racks – the materials science research rack-1 and the fluids integrated rack. The materials rack will allow the crews of the space station to conduct experiments on such diverse materials as metals, glasses, crystals and ceramics. They’ll be able to study how materials mix and solidify or how crystals grow, outside the confines of the Earth’s gravity.
If it’s not covered by the materials rack, there’s a fair chance that it will be by the fluids rack. Colloids, gels, bubbles, boiling and cooling are just a few of the long list of areas astronauts will study using the fluids rack.
Of course, with all the additional science being done on the station, the crews will need more room in which to store the fruits of their labor. So Discovery will also bring up a second Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for ISS – or MELFI, as it’s known.
And one other way that the STS-128 (and STS-125 and STS-127) mission will further the cause of science is by taking part in crew seat vibration tests that will help engineers on the ground understand how astronauts experience launch. They’ll then use the information to design the crew seats that will be used in future Constellation launches.
There will be lots of reasons to miss the space shuttles when they retire, but one of the most practical ones will be the lack of transportation options for large space station equipment.
In addition to all the modules and truss segments that the shuttle has been hauling into space for the past 10 years, there have been occasional ORUs – or orbital replacement units, a fancy word for spare parts – many of which were big. Too big, in fact, to be brought up on any other vehicle that visits the space station or any that’s being planned.
“What you’ve done,” Kirk Shireman, International Space Station program deputy manager, said, “is take away the 18-wheeler and replace it with a bunch of small pickup trucks.”
For STS-129, the 18-wheeler’s cargo hold will be full of spares to keep the station going after the big wheels have stopped rolling. There will be a spare control moment gyroscope, a spare nitrogen tank assembly and a spare ammonia tank assembly. A spare latching end effector for the station’s robotic arm, and a spare trailing umbilical system for the rail car that the arm travels on. A spare antenna and a spare high pressure gas tank.
There will be plenty more spares to come before the last shuttle flight, but STS-129 is definitely a start.
“This should last us for some time,” Shireman said.
STS-130 will represent a major milestone mission, as it will be bringing up the last major United States addition to the space station. And as usual, last doesn’t equal least.
Not only will space shuttle Endeavour be bringing up the final node – this one named Tranquility – and giving the expanded crew plenty of space to spread out in, but as this node will come attached to the six-windowed cupola, it’s likely to become everyone’s favorite room on the station.
“This flight will, I think, grab the public’s attention,” Shireman said. “It’s just going to be a really, really neat module for those on board. The dream of being able to go out and just have an unencumbered view of space – we’ll have it. You can open up all the windows and look around and really feel like you’re out there.”
The windows aren’t just for fun, however – they’ll be working windows. As more cargo vehicles begin frequenting the space station, the station’s robotic arm is going to be called into action to capture some of them as they approach and guide them into their docking port. A good view of that operation will be a welcomed help to those at the controls of the arm.
Much of the science done on the International Space Station involves difficult-to-understand concepts with long, hard-to-pronounce names. But the STS-131 mission will prove that’s not always the case. The experiment racks space shuttle Atlantis will deliver to the space station inside its multi-purpose logistics module focus on things regular people here on Earth do every day: exercise and look out the window.
The experiment racks that STS-131 will deliver to the station – the window observational research facility and the muscle atrophy research and exercise system rack – are pretty much exactly what they sound like. The window observational research facility is designed to beef up the work that astronauts are able to do looking out the window of the Destiny laboratory by adding cameras, multispectral and hyperspectral scanners, camcorders and sensors. With those instruments, the crew will be able to study global climates, land and sea formations and crop weather damage like never before.
Meanwhile, the muscle atrophy research and exercise system rack – or MARES – will give the crew members a way to assess the strength of their muscles while in space. The deterioration of muscles not used while astronauts are floating in microgravity has long been a concern for space programs. This rack will mean that the crew members don’t have to wait until they’re back on solid ground to find out how their time in space affected their health. Instead, the MARES will help them exercise seven different human joints, gauge the strength of the muscles around those joints and decide how the countermeasures designed to prevent muscle atrophy are working.
The last International Space Station modules to be delivered by a space shuttle will come up on the STS-132 mission.
The last space station module to be delivered by a shuttle also happens to be the first Russian module delivered by a shuttle. It will be filled, for the launch, with pressurized U.S. cargo, installed by a Canadian robotic arm and include a European robotic arm – all of which underscores once more the very international nature of the International Space Station.
STS-133 was originally scheduled to be the final shuttle flight of the fleet, and as such, it was packed to the brim with one last load of spares.
There are debris shields for the Zvezda service module, and antennas for the S-Band communication system. There’s a spare ammonia tank assembly, a spare flex hose rotary coupler, several remote power control modules and even a spare arm for the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator.
“It isn’t glamorous, but it’s really important for the space station to execute its mission,” Shireman said.
Besides, even though none of the equipment will actually be installed, it will still take at least three spacewalks to get it all in position to be ready when needed. And this flight (along with the next) will also be used to try out a new relative navigation sensor that could be used on Orion, the next U.S. vehicle that will take astronauts to the International Space Station. So there should still be excitement to spare, as well as equipment.
“There are no boring shuttle flights,” John Shannon, Space Shuttle program manager, said.
It’s appropriate that the last flight of the Space Shuttle Program is scheduled to bring up the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Designed to detect cosmic rays, it should continue the tradition of discovery that the space shuttles have fueled for almost three decades. Even so, it’s unlikely that will make it any easier to say goodbye. Shannon said it’s hard to imagine the end of the program at this point, but he expects it to be bittersweet.
“I’m sure it will be emotional,” he said. “But I suspect that it will not be sadness over the passing of that era, but happiness that we were a part of it. The assembly of the space station could not have been done without the space shuttle, and the assembly of the space station is one of the great engineering achievements of mankind.
“So the space shuttle will have done a good job.”
(Above) NASA Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, left, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Bill Gerstenmaier, center, and NASA Acting Administrator Chris Scolese are seen in firing room four of the NASA Kennedy Space Center.
At 1:55 a.m. EDT, launch managers called a scrub, canceling today’s planned launch of space shuttle Endeavour on its STS-127 mission. Despite troubleshooting efforts, engineers were unable to achieve a decrease in the liquid hydrogen leak associated with the external fuel tank’s ground umbilical carrier panel. This is the same location where a similar leak resulted in a launch scrub on June 13.