STS-76 (76)

Atlantis (16)
Pad 39-B (35)
76th Shuttle Mission
3rd MIR Docking
16th Flight OV-104
EAFB Landing
1st Launch and Landing using new MCC


Kevin P. Chilton (3), Commander
Richard A. Searfoss (2), Pilot
Shannon W. Lucid (5), Mission Specialist
Linda M. Godwin (3), Mission Specialist
Michael R. Clifford (3), Mission Specialist
Ronald M. Sega (2), Mission Specialist

Shannon W. Lucid will remain on MIR


OPF -- 11/20/95
VAB -- 2/19/96
PAD -- 2/28/96 erence KSC Shuttle Status 2/29/1996)
CTDT - 3/5/96
FRR -- 3/11/96



Mission Objectives:

The primary mission objective will be the third docking between the Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Russian Space Station Mir. It will include a crew transfer, an extravehicular activity (EVA), logistics operations and scientific research.

Rendezvous and docking with Mir is scheduled to occur on flight day three using the same approach as previously used during STS-74. Docking will occur between the Orbiter Docking System in the forward area of Atlantis' payload bay and the Docking Module installed during STS-74 on Mir's Kristall module docking port.

The mission will also feature a SPACEHAB module, middeck experiments, a Get Away Special (GAS) canister and a 6-hour EVA. Over 1,900 pounds (862 kilograms) of equipment are being transfered from Atlantis to Mir including a gyrodyne, transformer, batteries, food, water, film and clothing.

Planned Experiments include the Mir Electric Field Characterization (MEFC) experiment, numerious European Space Agency's (ESA)Biorack life sciences experiments, the Queen's University Experiment in Liquid Diffusion (QUELD) experiment, the Optizone Liquid Phase Sintering Experiment (OLIPSE) and a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Get Away Special (GAS) payload Trapped Ions in Space (TRIS) experiment. TRIS will measure low-energy particle radiation in the inner magnetosphere. Another experiment conducted on Mir during STS-76 will be the Mir Wireless Network Experiment (WNE) which was launched on STS-74 in November 1995. It will test the first wireless client-server network in the space environment.

The mission will also include KidSat, a prototype of Earth viewing cameras and instruments that allows students in grades Kindergarden to Grade 12 (K-12) to see and direct the capture of pictures from space.

Mission Specialists Godwin and Clifford are also scheduled to perform a six-hour spacewalk on flight day six. They will attach four experiments, known collectively as the Mir Environmental Effects Payload MEEP, onto handrails located on the Mir Docking Module. These experiments include the Polished Plate Micrometeoriod Debris (PPMD) experiment, the Orbital Debris Collector (ODC) experiment, and the Passive Optical Samples (POSA) I and II experiments.


Launch March 22, 1996 at 3:13:04 a.m. EST. Launch Window was 7 min.

The countdown began at the T-43 hour mark at 2 a.m. Monday, March 18, 1996. The countdown was conducted from Firing Room 1 of the Launch Control Center (LCC) and included 30 hours and 33 minutes of build-in holds. The launch countdown proceeded smoothly and launch occured exactly on time at the start of the available window. During ascent, the only problem noted was a small leak of hydraulic fluid from the hydraulic system powered by APU # 3. ( Reference STS-76 MCC Status Report # 1)

Post flight inspections of the mobile launcher platform (MLP) at Pad 39-B revealed a 63 foot long crack on one of the MLP steel plates running from the north end of the left-hand flamehole to the north end of the MLP surface. Cracks are sometimes found and easily repaired on the MLPs following launch operations. No impact to later scheduled launches is expected. MLP-3 will next be used for Mission STS-79 in July.

On 3/20/96, the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) at Launch Pad-39B was rolled back and external tank fueling operations were set to begin for a launch at 3:34am EST 3/21/96. However, there were high winds and rough seas in the launch area which would violate RTLS constraints at the Shuttle Landing Facility. Weather forecasts showed only a 20% chance of favorable weather. The shuttle mission management team decided at 6:45pm to delay the launch 24 hours with a new T-0 at 3:12 a.m. EST on 3/22/96.

The Payload interface verification tests were completed 3/12/96 and the payload bay doors closed for fight. The Flight Readiness Review and the mission management team selected March 21, 1996 as the official launch date.

The SPACEHAB single module has been installed into the payload bay and connected to the tunnel adapter. The Space Shuttle main engine flight readiness test was conducted 3/1/96. The Helium signature test was done on 3/4/96. The STS-76 crew arrived at KSC 3/3/96 at about 8 p.m. for the Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test (TCDT) with a simulated engine cut-off at 11am 3/6/96.

On 11/27/95, Post flight access was being established. The payload bay doors were opened in preparation for removing the Orbiter Docking System data analysis is complete with no issues or concerns.


Altitude: 160 nm
Inclination: 51.6 degrees
Orbits: 145 (estimated)
Duration: 9 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes, 48 seconds.
Distance: 3.8 million miles (estimated)


SRB: BI-79
ET : SN-77
MLP : 3
SSME-1: SN-2035
SSME-2: SN-2109
SSME-3: SN-2019


Edwards AFB March 31, 1996 at 8:28:57 a.m. EST. Runway 22. Conditions at EAFB were clear and calm with no weather concerns. Landing was 11min before daylight at 5:29am local time which under flight rules is considered a daylight landing. The deorbit burn fired at 7:24 a.m EST. Atlantis executed a 275degree left overhead turn into the landing strip and twin sonic booms were heard at Edwards 3min before landing. Main Gear Touchdown at 9 days 5 hours 15 min 53 sec or 8:28:57 EST. Nose gear touchdown at a MET of 9 days 5 hrs 15 min 4 sec or 8:29:08 EST and wheels stop at 9 days 5 hours 16 min 48 sec or 8:29:52 EST.

Time critical science experiments were removed while Atlantis was on the runway and the orbiter was towed from the runway at 5:35pm EST. Towing was completed by 7:23pm EST. Residual cryogenic reactants were offloaded and technicians entered the aft main engine compartment to inspect the hydraulic system.

The decision to aim Atlantis toward the one-day-early landing in Florida was made by shuttle managers on 3/28/96. KSC was the only landing site considered for Saturday, 3/30/96 however the landing opportunities were waived off due to trends of clouds forming to the south of the Shuttle Landing Facility. KSC landings on Sunday 3/31/96 would have required a deorbit burn on orbit 143 at 5:57am EST or 7:33am EST and led to landings at either 7:00am EST or 8:29am EST. The KSC landings were waived off due to weather.

Three landing opportunities existed for a Sunday landing at Edwards Air Force Base on orbits 144, 145 and 146. The three Edwards opportunities were: an orbit 144 deorbit burn at 7:25 a.m. EST with a 8:29 a.m. EST landing; an orbit 145 deorbit at 9:02 EST a.m. landing at 10:06 EST; and an orbit 146 engine firing at 10:38 EST a.m. landing at 11:42 a.m.

Weather conditions Sunday at KSC were a concern. Early morning ground fog, scattered clouds at 1000 ft and thunderstorms within 30 miles of the landing strip. Weather at Edwards Air Force Base was predicted to be acceptable on Sunday. A total of five opportunities were present for a Sunday landing, two to KSC and three to Edwards.

After the landing opportunity on Saturday was waived off, the crew was given the go to open Atlantis' payload bay doors. Latches 5 thru 8 on the doors released (starboard side) but latches 9-12 on the starbord side not release. The latching system consists of 16 bulkhead latches (eight aft and eight forward) and 16 payload bay door centerline latches. Astronaut Linda Godwin inspected the latches thru the payload bay door windows and the SPACEHAB windows and reported that the latches appeared to be open. The astronauts manually commanded the latches to open and the payload bay doors opened as expected.

On 4/6/96, the orbiter Atlantis, bolted atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), aborted its departure from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. after being airborne for only 15 min. The orbiter/SCA departed EAFB at 4:55 EST en route back to Kennedy Space Center, but about 5 minutes after departure, the flight crew of the SCA observed a fire warning indicator light for engine No. 3, the right inboard engine. Pilots Gordon Fullerton and Tom McMurtry shut down the engine and returned to Edwards on the remaining three engines without further incident. The engine was replaced and the SCA carrying Atlantis arrived at KSC on 4/12/96

Mission Highlights:

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