STS-87 (88)

Columbia (24)
Pad 39-B (40)
88th Shuttle Mission
24th Flight OV-102
1st Heads-Up ascent
41st KSC landing


Kevin R. Kregel (3), Commander
Steven W. Lindsey (1), Pilot
Winston E. Scott (2), Mission Specialist
Kalpana Chawla (1), Mission Specialist
Takao Doi (1), (NASDA) Mission Specialist
Leonid K. Kadenyuk(1), (NSAU) Payload Specialist


OPF2 -- 07/17/97
VAB -- 10/24/97
PAD -- 10/29/97



Mission Objectives:

STS-87 will fly the United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4), the Spartan-201, the Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE), the EVA Demonstration Flight Test 5 (EDFT-05), the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sending Experiment (SOLSE), the Loop Heat Pipe (LHP), the Sodium Sulfur Battery Experiment (NaSBE), the Turbulent GAS Jet Diffusion (G-744) experiment and the Autonomous EVA Robotic Camera/Sprint (AERCam/Sprint) experiment. Two middeck experiments are the Middeck Glovbox Payload (MGBX) and the Collaborative Ukrainian Experiment (CUE).

The United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4) is a Spacelab project managed by Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama. The complement of microgravity research experiments is divided between two Mission-Peculiar Experiment Support Structures (MPESS) in the payload bay. The extended mission capability offered by the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) kit provides an opportunity for additional science gathering time.

Spartan 201-04 is a Solar Physics Spacecraft designed to perform remote sensing of the hot outer layers of the sun's atmosphere or corona. It is expected to be deployed on orbit 18 and retrieved on orbit 52. The objective of the observations are to investigate the mechanisms causing the heating of the solar corona and the acceleration of the solar wind which originates in the corona. Two primary experiments are the Ultraviolet Coronal Spectrometer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the White Light Coronograph (WLC) from the High Altitude Observatory. Spartan 201 has three secondary experiments. The Technology Experiment Augmenting Spartan (TEXAS) is a Radio Frequency (RF) communications experiment which will provide flight experience for components baselined on future Spartan missions, and a real time communications and control link with the primary Spartan 201 experiments. This link will be used to provide a fine pointing adjustment to the WLC based on solar images downlinked real time. The Video Guidance Sensor (VGS) Flight Experiment is a laser guidance system which will test a key component of the Automated Rendezvous and Capture (AR&C) system. The Spartan Auxiliary Mounting Plate (SPAM) is a small equipment mounting plate which will provide a mounting location for small experiments or auxiliary equipment of the Spartan Flight Support Structure (SFSS) It is a honeycomb plate using a experimental Silicon Carbide Aluminum face sheet material with an aluminum core.

The Advanced Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (AADSF) is a sophisticated materials science facility used for studying a common method of processing semiconductor crystals called directional solidification. Solidification is the process of freezing materials. In the type of directional solidification to be used in AADSF, the liquid sample, enclosed in quartz ampoules, will be slowly solidified along the long axis. A mechanism will move the sample through varying temperature zones in the furnace. To start processing, the furnace melts all but one end of the sample towards the other. Once crystallized, the sample remains in the furnace to be examined post-flight. The solidification front is of particular interest to scientists because the flows found in the liquid material influence the final composition and structure of the solid and its properties.

The Confined Helium Experiment (CHeX) provides a test of theories of the influence of boundaries on matter by measuring the heat capacity of helium as it is confined to two dimensions.

The Isothermal Dendritic Growth Experiment (IDGE) is a materials science solidification experiment that researchers will use to investigate a particular type of solidification called dendritic growth. Dendritic solidification is one of the most common forms of solidifying metals and alloys. When materials crystallize or solidify under certain condition, the freeze unstably, resulting in tiny, tree-like crystalline forms called dendrites. Scientist are particularly interested in dendrite size, shape, and how the branches of the dendrites interact with each other. These characteristics largely determine the properties of the material.

Designed for research on the directional solidification of metallic alloys, the Material pour l'Etude des Phenomenes Interssant la Solidification sur Terre et en Orbite (MEPHISTO) experiment is primarily interested in measuring the temperature, velocity, and shape of the solidification front (the point where the solid and liquid contact each other during solidification.) MEPHISTO simultaneously processes three identical cylindrical samples of bismuth and tin alloy. In the first sample, the temperature fluctuations of the moving solidification are measured electrically, with disturbing the sample. The position of the solid to liquid border is determined by an electrical resistance technique in the second sample. In the third sample, the faceted solidification front is marked at selected intervals with electric current pulses. The samples are returned to Earth for analysis. During the mission, MEPHISTO data will be correlated with data from the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS). By comparing data, scientists can determine how accelerations aboard the shuttle disturb the solid to liquid interface.

The Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS), sponsored by Lewis Research Center, is a microprocessor-driven data acquisition system designed to measure and record the microgravity acceleration environment of the USMP carrier. The SAMS has three triaxial sensor heads that are separate from the electronics package for remote positioning. In operation, the triaxial sensor head produces output signals in response to acceleration inputs. The signals are amplified, filtered, and converted into digital data. The digital acceleration data is transferred to optical disk memory for ground analysis. Each accelerometer has a mass suspended by a quartz element is such a manner to allow movement along one axis only. A coil is attached to the mass and the assembly is placed between two permanent magnets. An applied acceleration displaces the mass form its resting position. This movement is sensed by a detector, causing SAMS electronics to send a voltage to the coil, producing exactly the magnetic field needed to restore the mass to its original position. The applied voltage is proportional to the applied acceleration and is output to the SAMS electronics as acceleration data.

While flying separately in the cargo bay, the Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE) is an integral part of USMP-04. It is a highly sensitive instrument designed to acquire and record data of low-level aerodynamic acceleration along the orbiter's principal axes in the free-molecular flow regime at orbital altitudes and in the transition regime during re-entry. OARE data will support advances in space materials processing by providing measurements of the low-level, low frequency disturbance environment affecting various microgravity experiments. OARE data will also support advances in orbital drag prediction technology by increasing the understanding of the fundamental flow phenomena in the upper atmosphere.

The Extravehicular Activity Development Flight Test - 05 (EDFT-05) consists of the payload bay hardware elements of Detailed Test Objective (DTO) 671, EVA Hardware for Future Scheduled Extravehicular Missions. EDFT - 05's main objective is to demonstrate International Space Station (ISS) on-orbit, end-to-end EVA assembly and maintenance operations. The other DTO's included in this test are DTO 672, Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Electrical Cuff Checklist and DTO 833, EMU Thermal Comfort and EVA Worksite Thermal Environment. Another objective is to expand the EVA experience base for ground and flight crews. Two EVA's will be performed on this mission to accomplish these DTO's.

The objective of the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment (SOLSE) is to determine the altitude distribution of ozone in an attempt to understand its behavior so that quantitative changes in the composition of our atmosphere can be predicted. SOLSE is intended to perform ozone distribution that a nadir instrument can achieve. This will be performed using Charged Coupled Device (CCD) technology to eliminate moving parts in a simpler, low cost, ozone mapping instrument. The experiment is housed in a Hitchhiker (HH/GAS) canister with canister extension ring and equipped with a Hitchhiker Motorized Door Assembly (HMDA). Instrumentation includes an Ultraviolet (UV) spectrograph with a CCD array detector, CCD array and visible light cameras, calibration lamp, optics and baffling. Once on orbit a crew member will active SOLSE which will perform limb and Earth viewing observations. Limb observations focuses on the region 20 km to 50 km altitude above the horizon for the Earth's surface. Earth viewing observations will enable SOLSE to correlate the data with other nadir viewing, ozone instruments.

The Loop Heat Pipe (LHP) test will advance thermal energy management technology and validating technology readiness for upcoming commercial spacecraft applications. The LHP will be operated with anhydros ammonia as the working fluid to transport thermal energy with high effective conductivity in zero gravity. LHP is a passive, two-phase flow heat transfer device that is capable of transporting up to 400 watts over a distance of 5 meters through semiflexible, small-diameter tubes. It uses capillary forces to circulate the two-phase working fluid. The system is self-priming and totally passive in operation. When heat is applied to the LHP evaporator, part of the working fluid vaporizes. The vapor flows through the vapor transport lines and condenses, releasing heat. The condense returns to the evaporator via capillary action through the liquid transport lines.

The Sodium Sulfur Battery Experiment (NaSBE) will characterize the performance of four 40 amp-hour sodium-sulfur battery cells. Each cell is comprised of a sodium anode, sulfur cathode, and solid ceramic sodium ion conducting electrolyte and separator. The cells must be heated to 350 degrees Celsius to liquefy the sodium and sulfur. Once the anode and cathode are liquefied, the cells will start to generate electrical power. Once on orbit a crewmember will active NaSBE and then controlled by the GSFC Payload Operations Control Center (POCC).

The Turbulent Gas Jet Diffusion Flames (TGDF) payload is a secondary payload that will use the standard Get-Away Special (GAS) carrier. It's purpose is to gain an understanding of the fundamental characteristics of transitional and turbulent gas jet diffusion flames under microgravity conditions and to acquire data that will aid in predicting the behavior of transitional and turbulent gas jet diffusion flames under normal and microgravity environments. TGDF will impose large-scale controlled disturbances on well-defined laminar microgravity diffusion flames. The will be on axisymmertic perturbations to laminar flames. The variables for the proposed tests will be the frequency of the disturbance mechanism which will be either 2.5 Hz, 5 Hz, or 7.5 Hz.

Get-Away Special (GAS G-036) payload canister contains four separate experiments that will hydrate cement samples, will record configuration stability of fluid samples, and will expose computer discs, compact discs, and asphalt samples to exosphere conditions in the cargo bay of the orbiter. The experiments are the Cement Mixing Experiment (CME), the Configuration Stability of Fluid Experiment (CSFE), the Computer Compact Disc Evaluation Experiment (CDEE) and the Asphalt Evaluation Experimetn (AEE).

The Autonomous EVA Robotic Camera/Sprint (AERCam/Sprint) is a small, unobtrusive, free-flying camera platform for use outside a spacecraft. The free-flyer has a self contained cold gas propulsion system giving it the capability to be propelled with a 6 degrees of freedom control system. On board the free-flyer are rate sensors to provide data for an automatic attitude hold capability. AERCam/Sprint is a spherical vehicle that moves slowly and is covered in a soft cushioning material to prevent damage in the event of an impact. The design philosophy is to keep the energy low by keeping the velocities and mass low while providing a mechanism to absorb any energy from an impact. The free-flyer platform is controlled from inside the Orbiter by using a small control station. The operator will input motion commands from a single, Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) device controller. The commands will be sent from the control station to he free-flyer via a Radio Frequency (RF) modem link operating in the Ultrahigh Frequency (UHF) range.

The Extended Duration Orbiter (electrical power generating fuel cells, where they are converted into sufficient electrical energy to support the average 4 family-member house for approximately 6 months. About 3,000 pounds of pure drinking water is also produced by the fuel cells. With the EDO pallet, the orbiter can support a flight for a maximum of 18 days. Longer on-orbit missions benefit microgravity research, Life Sciences research, Earth and celestial observations, human adaptation to the zero-G environment, and support to the Space Station.

The Middeck Glove Box (MGBX) is a facility designed for materials science and biological science experiment handling. It consists of two primary systems; an Interface Frame (IF) and a Glovebox (GB). The MGBX facility (with associated electronics) provides an enclosed working area for experiment manipulation and observation on the shuttle middeck. The MGBX experiments on this flight are: WCI - The objective of the Wetting Characteristics of Immiscibles is to investigate the influence of alloy/ampoule wetting characteristics on the segregation of immiscible liquids during microgravity processing. The Enclosed Laminar Flames (ELF) experiment objective is to validate the zero-gravity Burke-Schumann model and the gravity-dependent Hegde-Bahadori extension of the model, investigate the importance of the buoyancy-dependent flowfield as affected by oxidizer flow on flame stabilization, examine the state relationships of co-flow diffusion flames under the influence of buoyancy conditions (gravity versus pressure), and study the flow vortex and diffusion flame interactions. The Particle Engulfment and Pushing by Solidifying Interfaces (PEP) experiment objectives will be to generate an accurate value for the critical velocity in a convection-free environment, validate present theoretical model, enhance fundamental understanding of dynamics of insoluble particles at liquid/solid interfaces, and improve understanding of physics associated with solidification of liquid metals-ceramic particles mixtures.

The Collaborative Ukraine Experiment (CUE) is a middeck payload designed to study the effects of microgravity on plant growth. The CUE is composed of a group of experiments that will be flown in the Plant Growth Facility (PGF) and in the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC). The experiments also require the use of a Gaseous Nitrogen (GN2) Freezer and the fixation hardware. Investigators in Ukraine and the United States selected the experiments as a model for scientific collaboration between the two countries. The PGF will support plant growth for up to 30 days by providing acceptable environmental conditions for normal plant growth. The PGF is composed of the following subsystems: Control and Data Management Subsystems (CDMS), Fluorescent Light Module (FLM), Atmospheric Control Module (ACM), Plant Growth Chambers (PGCs), Support Structure Assembly (SSA), and the Generic External Shell (GES). The complete PGF will replace on middeck locker and operates on 28 V direct current (dc) power. The plant specimen to be studied in the PGF is Brassica rapa (turnip).


Launch November 19, 1997 14:46 EST. Launch window was 2 hours 30 minutes.

On Wednesday, November 19, 1997, the countdown preceeded smoothly. At 9:27am EST the count entered the hold at the T-minus 3 hour mark and came out of the hold at 11:26am. The External Tank was fully loaded with liquid oxygen (LO2) and liquid Hydrogen (LH2) and was in stable replenish mode. At 11:30am the crew departed the astronauts quarters in the KSC Operations and Checkout (O&C) building and arrived at the launch pad at 11:47am EST. By 12:49pm EST the entire crew was strapped into their launch positions and orbiter closeout operations began. Air to ground voice checks were completed at 1:02pm EST and at the T-minus 1 hour mark (1:20pm EST) the hatch was closed and locked for flight. At 2:05pm EST the countdown entered the T-minus 20 minute hold and the launch team came out of the hold at 2:16pm EST. At 2:27pm EST the launch team was polled and at 2:37pm EST, launch director Jim Harrington gave a final clear for launch. Launch occured exactly on time at 2:46pm EST. This launch was the first to use a "heads-up" maneuver which has the SSME's automatically rotate the orbiter from belly-up to belly-down approximately 6 minutes after liftoff. This procedure will be used on all future low inclination (due East) launches. It allows the orbiter to communicate 2.5 minutes sooner with the space based tracking and data relay network (TDRS) system and eliminates the need for the Bermuda tracking station.

On Monday, November 17, 1997, loading of cryogenic reactants into the power reactant storage and distribution system was planned for 1 p.m., but was delayed by about four hours due to lower than acceptable helium readings in the orbiter midbody umbilical unit cavity. Helium is used to purge the tanks before reactant loading. Workers were sent out to Pad 39B to inspect the purge line interfaces and tightened the fittings. Following those troubleshooting activities, consoles in the firing room indicated an acceptable helium concentration and reactant loading began at about 4:30 p.m. Mangers expect to recuperate from the delay with no significant impacts to the launch schedule.

On Sunday, November 16, 1997 the STS-87 flight crew arrived at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at about 3:15 p.m. and underwent routine pre-flight medical exams and final mission familiarization briefings in the days leading up to launch. Commander Kevin Kregel and Pilot Steven Lindsey practiced SLF approaches in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA). The launch countdown for STS-87 began on time at 3 p.m.

Columbia began the roll out to Pad 39B at 7 a.m. Wednesday 10/29/97 and arrived at launch Pad 39B at about 2:45 p.m. after traveling 4.2 miles from the VAB atop th crawler transporter. Pad validations are in work and a hot fire test of auxiliary power unit No. 2 scheduled for later tonight. Vertical payload installation begins Saturday morning.

Columbia was mated to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in VAB high bay 3 on Saturday, 10/25/97 and the Shuttle interface test concluded on 10/28/97. The U.S. Microgravity Payload has been transferred to the pad's payload change-out room and the payload canister returned to the Operations and Checkout Building.

On 10/24/97, The Space Shuttle Columbia rolled into the VAB transfer aisle at about 6 a.m. The orbiter will be mated to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in high bay 3 over the weekend and is slated to roll out to Pad 39B on Wednesday. The USMP payload is now scheduled for transfer to the pad on Monday 10/27/97. Workers continue to troubleshoot gear mechanisms at the base of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) and functional tests are slated for Saturday. Managers expect Pad 39B to be ready for payload activities next week; however, support preparations for Pad 39A are under way in case it is needed. No impact to the launch date is anticipated.

On 9/23/97, servicing of Columbia's ammonia system was completed and installation of Columbia's main engines and freon coolant loop has begun. Workers will install GAS beams in the Shuttle's cargo bay for installation of a secondary payload on Wednesday, 9/24/97. Solid rocket booster stacking operations are complete for STS-87 and work to mate the external tank to the SRBs is slated to begin Thursday 9/25/97.

On 8/15/97, functional testing of the Shuttle's aft propulsion system continues. Replacement of a flow valve on fuel cell No. 2 was in work. In Columbia's crew module a fuel cell monitoring modification was also underway. Removal of the Shuttle's oxidizer cross-feed line from the orbiter maneuvering system scheduled for 8/16/97. Once the line is isolated and draining activities are complete leak checks and repair work will follow.

On 7/18/97, following Columbia's safe landing at KSC concluding mission STS-94, the orbiter was rolled from the SLF to OPF bay 2 where it was spotted at about 12:20 p.m. Postmission assessments are currently underway. Initial assessments of tile damage from the 16-day flight is reported to be less than average. The orbiter thermal protection system sustained a total of 90 hits of which 12 had a major dimension of 1-inch or larger. Integrated postflight securing and deservicing of the onboard cryogenic system is in work today. The payload bay doors are currently scheduled to be opened next Tuesday.

The launch was originally scheduled for October 9, 1997 but was slipped to mid November so that Columbia could refly the STS-83 MSL mission that was cut short due to a fuel cell problem.


Altitude: 150nm
Inclination: 28.45
Orbits: 252
Duration: 15 days, 16 hours, 35 minutes, 01 seconds.
Distance: 6.5 million miles


ET : SN-89
SSME-1: SN-2031 (HPOTP 2133, HPFTP 6012)
SSME-2: SN-2039* (HPOTP 8015, HPFTP 2130)
SSME-3: SN-2037* (HPOTP 8020, HPFTP 6011)


KSC December 5, 7:20 am EST. KSC Runway 33. Main Gear Touchdown at 07:20:04 am EST. (Mission Elapsed Time 15d 16h 34min 04sec) Nose Gear Touchdown at 07:20:14 am EST. (MET 15d 16h 34min 14sec) Wheel Stop at 07:21:01am EST (MET 15d 16h 35min 1sec).

On 12/5/97, KSC Weather conditions were favorable for a landing on the first opportunity. At 5:56am EST, commander Kevin Kregel was given a go for the deorbit burn and the 2 minute 32 second burn began at 6:23am EST. The burn reduced Columbia's orbital velocity by 250ft/sec into a 149nm by 9nm orbit. The orbiter approached KSC from the northwest and took a right overhead turn onto KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 33. Landing approximately 2000 ft down the runway.

At the time of landing, forecasters expected scattered clouds at 2,000 ft and 25,000 ft; visibility at 7 miles; winds from the northwest at 10 knots, gusting to 16 knots. With plans to land Columbia on KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility Runway 33, a head wind is expected. The two landing opportunities at KSC were at 7:20 a.m. and 8:55 a.m. EST.

Mission Highlights:

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