Wednesday, September 26, 2012

STS-41-B causeway pass and brochure

This week, some mementos from Space Shuttle mission STS-41-B (originally designated STS-11)1 which launched on 3 February 1984.

STS-41-B was Space Shuttle Challenger’s fourth trip to space, and the tenth shuttle flight overall.2 In most ways, it was an absolutely typical early-80s shuttle mission. The main objectives were to deliver two unremarkable Hughes HS-3763 commercial communication satellites to orbit: Westar 6 for Western Union (which later sold off its satellite business, today owned by Westar) and Palapa B2 for Indosat.4

What made the flight unforgettable, though, was the first flight of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU)—a personal propulsion system like an oversized backpack built for NASA by Martin Marietta (today part of Lockheed Martin). The MMU allowed astronauts to manÅ“uver independently in space, untethered and away from their spacecraft. Astronaut Bruce McCandless’s first test of the system on 7 February provided one of the iconic images of the shuttle program:

NASA image S84-27017


The MMU deserves a post of its own sometime in the future. For today, I’ll focus on the mission itself.

This brochure, issued by the shuttle’s manufacturer, Rockwell International (today, part of Boeing) in January 1984 describes the mission objectives, the cargo, and the crew:






Apart from discussing the communication satellites and the MMU, the brochure also outlines the dress rehearsal conducted during the mission for a satellite rescue to be performed on the next flight. When actually realised, this part was truly deserving of Rockwell’s advertising hype “Another Stride in America’s Space Capabilites”. Putting satellites in orbit was well-established technology, but on STS-41-C, NASA would attempt to repair one in orbit. But back to STS-41-B...

This pass allowed a spectator’s vehicle onto the NASA Causeway to watch the STS-41-B launch. Ten kilometres (six miles) from the launch pad, this was the closest that the public could get.




The pass itself is a fluorescent pink, that unfortunately my scanner reduces to the pale salmon you see here. It’s also in much poorer condition than the other passes in my collection. Please let me know if you’ve got a better one that you’re prepared to part with!

Footnotes:
1 From this, the tenth shuttle flight, through to the twenty-fifth, NASA abandoned its previous scheme of identifying shuttle missions simply by the prefix “STS” (for Space Transportation System, the official name of the shuttle program) followed by the number of the flight. Instead, the agency adopted a code of two digits and a letter. The first digit represented the financial year from which the budget for the flight came. The second digit represented the launch site for the mission (“1” for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, “2” for Vandenberg Air Force Base, California). The final letter represented the number of the flight in that financial year, so STS-41-B was followed by STS-41-C and STS-41-D. Shuttle flights for 1984, 1985, and 1986 followed this designation scheme. No shuttles ever launched from Vandenberg, so “1” was the only second digit ever used.

2 The mission that would have been designated STS-10 was cancelled due to delays with its payload. It was later flown as STS-51-C.

3 Hughes is today part of Boeing.

4 Both launches failed and the satellites were trapped in useless orbits. They were retrieved for their insurers in November 1984 by shuttle mission STS-51-A. Both were subsequently refurbished, resold, and successfully reflown on separate expendable launch vehicles in 1990.


Copyright information: the brochure is a work of Rockwell International and does not carry a copyright notice. As a work published in the United States prior to 1989 without such a notice, it is in the public domain. The MMU photograph and the pass are works of NASA. As works of the United States federal government, they too are  in the public domain.





Wednesday, September 19, 2012

STS-9 causeway pass and brochure

Spacelab was a collection of laboratory modules that could be carried in the space shuttle’s cargo bay. The system was built by the ESA (the European Space Agency) as a result of a co-operative agreement with NASA that dated back to 1973. It features very prominently in my memories of the early shuttle program, because it was the payload most frequently depicted. Spacelab seemed to appear in every shuttle-related book illustration, poster, model kit, or toy. The casual observer could have been forgiven for thinking that a particular combination of Spacelab modules was an integral part of the shuttle; a notion completely antithetical to its versatile design.

I’ll present some payload-specific memorabilia another time, but this week, I’ve got some mementos of STS-9. This mission was the first to carry Spacelab to orbit, and launched in November 1983 with the space shuttle Columbia on her sixth flight.

This brochure, issued by the shuttle’s manufacturer, Rockwell International (today, part of Boeing) in October 1983 introduces the mission and its crew:





The brochure contains an interesting inconsistency. The six-page brochure issued for STS-6 earlier in the year has two sidebars; one titled “Mission Log” with a summary of previous shuttle flights, and the other titled “Mission Profile” with a summary of the mission itself. The STS-9 brochure has an equivalent section titled “STS-9 Mission Log”, which to me suggests it should outline the schedule for the mission. It also uses similar graphics to the STS-6 “Mission Profile” but correct for STS-9, including revealing Spacelab to space. However, the text is just summary of the previous eight missions. I wonder if the two sections were condensed into one during preparation of the brochure, perhaps to save pages?

The brochure mentions Rockwell International’s role in readying Columbia for the mission, but somehow does not mention that the NASA contract for integrating Spacelab into the shuttle’s systems went to rival McDonnell Douglas (today, also part of Boeing).

The second item this week is a pass that allowed a spectator’s vehicle onto the NASA Causeway to watch the STS-9 launch. Ten kilometres (six miles) from the launch pad, this was the closest that the public could get.


The pass itself is a fluorescent green, which unfortunately my scanner doesn’t capture well.


Copyright information: the brochure is a work of Rockwell International and does not carry a copyright notice. As a work published in the United States prior to 1989 without such a notice, it is in the public domain. The pass is a work of NASA. As a work of the United States federal government, it too is in the public domain.





Wednesday, September 12, 2012

STS-6 causeway pass and brochure

This week, some mementos of the first launch of Space Shuttle Challenger.

The Space Shuttle program’s journeys into space commenced with a series of four orbital flight tests and one operational mission conducted with Columbia in 1981 and 1982. Following these flights, Columbia was refurbished for the first Spacelab mission while operational flights continued with a new orbiter — Challenger. Challenger’s first mission was STS-6, launched on 4 April 1983.

The main objective of the mission was to deploy the first of a series of new space communication satellites: the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS). This system was to relay telemetry from spacecraft to tracking stations on the ground, increasing the length of time and the frequency with which spacecraft were in contact with Earth, and also the sheer volume of data that could be transferred during these contacts.

This brochure, issued by the shuttle’s manufacturer, Rockwell International (today, part of Boeing) in February 1983 describes the new orbiter, outlines the mission profile for STS-6, and introduces the crew:







The brochure concludes with a very optimistic section titled “The Emergence of a Spaceline”. As originally conceived in the late 1960s, the space shuttle should have launched nearly weekly. These expectations were gradually eroded, although as the program commenced, the shuttle was still intended to replace all other launch vehicles then in use by the United States. The Rockwell brochure does not give specifics about the frequency of flights, but says more generally:
“Turning this technical triumph into a commercial success depends on getting most out of Shuttle capabilities: each orbiter must be reflown as quickly as possible within safety requirements to establish cost-effective operations that attract commercial users.... Soon, the takeoff and landing of Shuttle orbiters will be almost as common as the coming and going of commercial aircraft.”
Sadly, this was extremely wishful thinking, and the largest number of shuttle launches conducted in any year was the nine flights made in 1985.

This pass allowed a spectator’s vehicle onto the NASA Causeway to watch the STS-6 launch. Ten kilometres (six miles) from the launch pad, this was the closest that the public could get to the pad.



The pass itself is a fluorescent orange, that unfortunately my scanner reduces to the pale salmon you see here.



Copyright information: the brochure is a work of Rockwell International and does not carry a copyright notice. As a work published in the United States prior to 1989 without such a notice, it is in the public domain. The pass is a work of NASA. As a work of the United States federal government, it too is in the public domain.










Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Space Shuttle Challenger payload bay liner, photo, and brochure

This week another relic, this time from the space shuttle Challenger, together with some items from around the time of her rollout.

Challenger, OV-099, was the third space shuttle built, and the second  to fly in space. She was named after a Royal Navy corvette which, commanded by Captain George Nares, undertook a pioneering oceanographic survey of 1872–76 now known as the “Challenger expedition”. Construction began on 21 November 1975 at the Rockwell International plant in Palmdale, California (today, part of Boeing) originally as a structural test article, STA-099. This piece of test equipment was a full-scale airframe that would be subjected to various loads so that stresses could be measured throughout the structure. These actual, measured values would then be compared to the values predicted by computer modelling for the design.

NASA planned to refit the prototype space shuttle Enterprise to a fully functional orbiter at the conclusion of a series of glide and vibration tests. However, cost analysis showed that it would be cheaper to refit STA-099 instead. This work began on 28 January 1979 and was completed by 21 October 1981. Challenger was rolled out on 30 June 1982. This photo shows a Rockwell International worker painting the shuttle’s name on the starboard side of her forward fuselage just prior to rollout:




The following pamphlet was published by Rockwell International in June 1982 and might have been available to guests at the rollout:




Challenger is represented in my collection by a sample of fabric that was used to line the shuttle’s payload bay on her first mission, STS-6 in April 1983:



It is a cream-coloured piece of beta cloth 10 cm × 9 cm (4″ × 3½″) supplied to me by David Bryant of The Space Station in the UK, together with copies of the provenance of the sample from NASA to him. Note that this fabric was removed during routine servicing and is not debris from the destruction of the spacecraft in the accident of 28 January 1986 that claimed her and her crew on her tenth mission.

Although I prefer not to include material in these posts that is not actually in my collection, a photo from NASA’s archives provides a sombre epilogue this week.  Following the accident, divers from USS Opportune recovered a 2.9 m × 4.9 m (9′ 7″ × 16′) fragment of Challenger’s starboard wing with part of her name still visible, photographed when it was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center Logistics Facility on 18 April 1986:

STS51L-10187

This is the same section of wing visible in the Rockwell International pamphlet presented above, right under the heading “Challenger The Second Orbiter”.


Copyright information: the print of the worker painting Challenger’s name that I hold in my collection came from a news archive and is a work of Rockwell International, circulated to the media in 1982 without a copyright notice. The pamphlet is also a work of Rockwell International, dated 1982 and published without a copyright notice.  As works published in the United States prior to 1989 without such notices, these items would be in the public domain. If copyright still exists in these items, it would now belong to Boeing, and use here is claimed to be fair use for the purpose of education and commentary in a non-commercial setting as permitted by 17 U.S.C. § 107. The NASA photo is a work of the US federal government and therefore in the public domain.





Sunday, August 26, 2012

Saturn V poster from MSFC

As I woke up this morning, the sad news of Neil Armstrong’s passing was making its way across the Internet.

It seemed fitting to dedicate this week’s post to the memory of a pioneering hero. However, my collection focuses mostly on the Space Shuttle, and I don’t have a single item specific to either of Armstrong’s flights, Gemini 8 or Apollo 11. Therefore, I present the most relevant piece I have—an educational poster produced by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville Alabama that describes the mighty Saturn V rocket that would take the Apollo missions to the moon.




Published in 1967, the first launch of the Saturn V was still in the future, to occur in November that year. In a painting by Huntsville artist Albert Lane, the poster depicts the launch vehicle design in something very close to its final configuration, and illustrates the major phases of the flight of the Saturn V:


First stage ignition and launch. At this point, the launch vehicle stood 110 m (363 ft) tall and weighed 2,800 tonnes (6.2 million pounds). Each of its five F-1 engines produced 6.8 MN (1.5 million lb) of thrust.

Built by Boeing, the first stage burned 770,000 litres (200,000 US gal) of RP-1 (kerosene) for 2 minutes 40 seconds, boosting the rocket to 70 km (40 miles) altitude and a speed of 10,000 km/h (6,200 mph).


First stage separation, second stage ignition. The second stage, built by North American Aviation (later, part of Rockwell International, today part of Boeing), burned 980,000 litres (260,000 US gal) of liquid hydrogen in 6 minutes, boosting the rocket the rest of the way into space, to 175 km (110 miles) altitude and a speed of 25,200 km/h (15,600 mph)


Second stage separation, third stage ignition. The third stage, built by Douglas Aircraft Corporation (later, part of McDonnell Douglas, today part of Boeing), burned liquid hydrogen for around 2 minutes 30 seconds to place the spacecraft into Earth orbit at an altitude of 190 km (120 miles).


Third stage restart. The third stage stayed attached to the Apollo spacecraft in orbit for nearly three hours, orbiting the Earth two-and-a-half times before it fired again to boost the spacecraft towards the moon (translunar injection, TLI). The boost lasted 6 minutes and accelerated Apollo to escape velocity of 40,000 km/h (25,000 mph).


Apollo spacecraft separation. Ninety minutes later, the Apollo spacecraft separated from the third stage and continued onwards to the moon.

Here’s the poster’s depiction of the full Saturn V stack, and of the separate stages:




I believe the Apollo program to be the most magnificent achievement of our species to date, and the world has never again seen a rocket the likes of the Saturn V. Its nearest competitor, the N1 built by the Soviet Union for its lunar program, was an abject failure and was mercifully abandoned before a crew was ever placed atop it.

Yet there is hope. NASA is presently at work on a new breed of heavyweight launcher for human exploration beyond low-earth orbit: the SLS (Space Launch System). All going well, this system, together with the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle, might see human beings on the moon again in the 2020s: over fifty years after Armstrong’s “one small step.”


Copyright notice: the poster is a work of NASA. As a work of the US federal government, it is in the public domain.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

STS-1 causeway pass and brochure

This week, some mementos of the first space shuttle launch.

On 12 April 1981—the twentieth anniversary of the first human spaceflight—space shuttle Columbia launched on STS-1, the first orbital test flight of the Space Transportation System. The flight was originally intended to have taken place in June 1979.

Thirty years later, it’s perhaps easy to forget just how revolutionary the space shuttle was, how utterly unlike any previous spacecraft. The delays in the program were due to the need to develop completely new technologies that a re-usable spacecraft demanded. Two key technologies that accounted for a large proportion of the delays were a heat shield that would not be sacrificed during re-entry, and engines that could be fired around fifty times when all previous similar engines were designed to be fired just once.

This brochure, issued by the Kennedy Space Center, describes the space shuttle, outlines the mission profile for STS-1, and introduces the crew:




This pass allowed a spectator’s vehicle onto the NASA Causeway to watch the launch. Ten kilometres (six miles) from the launch pad, this was the closest that the public could get to the pad.



Today, in 2012, there’s a certain amount of hand-wringing that NASA does not presently have human spaceflight capability, despite the work currently proceeding on various designs for the Commercial Crew Program and on the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle. It’s worth remembering that by the time STS-1 launched, America had been without human spaceflight capability for nearly six years—the last flight had been the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project of July 1975.


Copyright information: the brochure and pass are works of NASA. As works of the United States federal government, they are in the public domain.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Space Shuttle Columbia strap and construction photos

This week, photos of space shuttle Columbia as she neared completion, and a relic—a strap that flew on the shuttle.

Columbia, OV-102, was the second space shuttle built, and the first to fly in space. She was named after the sloop on which Robert Gray undertook the first American circumnavigation of the world in 1790 and explored the Columbia River in 1792. Construction began on 27 March 1975 at the Rockwell International plant in Palmdale, California (today, part of Boeing) and almost four years later, on 24 March 1979, Columbia arrived at the Kennedy Space Center for final integration and testing prior to launch.

This series of photos shows workers at Kennedy in 1979 attaching some of the 34,000 tiles that formed Columbia’s thermal protection system (TPS)—or heatshield:

108-KSC-79P-119
108-KSC-79P-319
108-KSC-79P-118


Note the numbers printed on the tiles, which indicated their placement on the spacecraft.

On 16 July that year, the first of Columbia’s three engines (engine number 2006) was fitted to the orbiter:


108-KSC-79PC-294


The third and final engine (engine number 2007) was fitted on 4 August:

79-HC-425

Even as NASA was issuing these photos to the press, the agency remained optimistic that the shuttle would fly soon. The back of one of these prints states:

“Columbia, the first in a new breed of manned, reusable spacecraft, is being readied for the first launch of the Space Shuttle later this year.”
In fact, Columbia would not fly till April 1981.

Columbia is represented in my collection by a strap from the orbiter. Note that this strap was removed during routine servicing and is not debris from the destruction of the spacecraft in the accident of 2 February 2003 that claimed her and her crew.


The strap is made of fabric (beta cloth, I presume) with press studs fitted to either end. It is 168 mm long and 22 mm wide (6⅔″ × ⅞″). It’s stamped with the word “SCRAP” in red ink, although this is barely visible in this photo. The strap and its NASA scrap tag were supplied to me by David Bryant of The Space Station in the UK. Note Columbia’s number—OV-102—written on the tag.

While all the other relics in my collection are samples of various materials, this is a complete unit, and is therefore one of my very favourite pieces.


Copyright information: all five photos are works of NASA. As works of the US federal government, all are in the public domain. I’ve noted their NASA serial numbers under each photo. I do not believe that the scrap tag contains enough expressive content to be eligible for copyright protection, but if it did, it is also a work of the US federal government and would be in the public domain anyway.