Category Archives: Space Flight

24 February 2011, 21:53:24 UTC

Space Shuttle Discovery is launched from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, at 4:53:24 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 24 February 2011. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery is launched from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, at 4:53:24 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 24 February 2011. (NASA)

24 February 2011, 21:53:24 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (OV-103) is launched on its final mission, STS-133. The mission was to dock the Leonardo Permanent Multipurpose Module at the International Space Station, as well as to transport other sensors, materials and supplies. The launch had been “scrubbed” five times since 29 October 2010.

Mission STS-133 was commanded by Colonel Steven Wayne Lindsey, United States Air Force. This was Colonel Lindsey’s fifth space shuttle flight. The shuttle pilot was Colonel Eric Allen Boe, U.S. Air Force. There were four Mission Specialists aboard: Nicole Marie Passonno Stott, a structural engineer; Colonel Benjamin Alvin Drew, U.S. Air Force; Michael Reed Barratt, M.D., a NASA Aviation Medical Examiner (“flight surgeon”); and Captain Stephen Gerard Bowen, U.S. Navy.

Crew of Discovery (STS-133). Left to right, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Steve Bowen, Alvin Drew, Eric Boe and Steve Lindsey. (NASA)
Crew of Discovery (STS-133). Left to right, Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Steve Bowen, Alvin Drew, Eric Boe and Steve Lindsey. (NASA)

Captain Bowen, a nuclear attack submarine officer, had replaced Mission Specialist Colonel Timothy Lennart Kopra, U.S. Army, who was injured in a bicycle accident. Bowen is the only NASA astronaut to have flown two consecutive missions. (STS-132 and STS-133)

Space Shuttle Discovery is launched from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, at 4:53:24 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, 24 February 2011. (NASA)
Space Shuttle Discovery climbs from Launch Complex 39A, 24 February 2011. (NASA)

Discovery docked at the International Space Station at 19:14 UTC, 26 February. Equipment and supplies were transferred.

Leonardo, which had previously been docked at the space station from March 2001 until April 2010, when it was returned to Earth to be modified and upgraded, was installed on the ISS on 1 March. Discovery remained docked at ISS for 8 days, 16 hours, 46 minutes.

The space shuttle returned to Earth on 9 March, landing at the Kennedy Shuttle Landing Facility at 16:58:14 UTC. The total duration of the mission was 12 days, 19 hours, 4 minutes, 50 seconds.

Discovery is the space shuttle fleet leader, having made 39 orbital flights, more than any other shuttle. It has spent 365 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes, 33 seconds in space flight, traveling 148,221,675 miles (238,539,663 kilometers).

On 19 April 2012, Discovery was placed on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum.

Your Blogger (left) and Site Administrator (right) observe preparations for the launch of Discovery (STS-133) from the Launch Complex 39 Viewing Gantry. (Photograph by unidentified fellow Observer)
Your intrepid TDiA researcher (left) and the Site Administrator (right) observe preparations for the launch of Discovery (STS-133) from the Launch Complex 39 Viewing Gantry. (Photograph by Unidentified Fellow Observer)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

21 February 1961

Project Mercury astronauts with Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart 59-0158. (NASA)
Project Mercury astronauts with Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart 59-0158. (NASA)

21 February 1961: Final training begins for Mercury 7 astronauts. Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom and John Glenn are selected for the initial flights. Left-to-Right: Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

The aircraft in the photograph is a Convair F-106B-75-CO Delta Dart, 59-0158, a two-place supersonic interceptor trainer.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

20 February 1962, 14:47:39 UTC

Launch of Friendship 7 from Launch Complex 14, Kennedy Space Center, 14:47:39 UTC, 20 February 1962. (NASA)

20 February 1962: At 9:47:39 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, NASA’s Mercury-Atlas 6 lifted off from Launch Complex 14, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the third launch of a manned Mercury spacecraft, and the first time that an Atlas rocket had been used.

Aboard the spacecraft was Lieutenant Colonel John Herschel Glenn, Jr., United States Marine Corps, an experienced fighter pilot and test pilot.

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., NASA Project Mercury Astronaut. (Ralph Morse/LIFE Magazine)

In his post-flight mission report, Glenn wrote,

When the countdown reached zero, I could feel the engines start. The spacecraft shook, not violently but very solidly. There was no doubt when lift off occurred, When the Atlas was released there was an immediate gentle surge to let you know you were on your way.

Results of the First United States Orbital Space Flight (NASA-TM-108606), Manned Spacecraft Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, at Page 120, Column 1

2 minutes, 9.6 seconds after liftoff, the booster engines cut of and were jettisoned. 23 seconds later, the escape tower, no longer needed, was also jettisoned. The Atlas sustainer engine continued to burn until T+00:05:01.4. The spacecraft had now reached 17,544 miles per hour (28,234 kilometers per hour) and was in an elliptical orbit around the Earth. At T+00:05:03.6 the Mercury spacecraft separated from the Atlas booster. During the climb to orbit, John Glenn experienced a maximum acceleration of 7.7 gs.

Glenn’s orbit had an apogee of 162.2 statute miles (261 kilometers) and perigee of 100 miles (161 kilometers). The orbit was inclined 32.54° relative to Earth’s orbital plane. Friendship 7 completed an orbit every 88 minutes, 29 seconds.

Analysis showed that the Atlas had placed Friendship 7 in orbit at a velocity with 7 feet per second (2.1 meters per second) less than nominal. However, computer analysis showed that the orbital trajectory was good enough for nearly 100 orbits.

This photograph of Friendship 7’s cockpit was taken in orbit around the Earth, 20 February 1962. Astronaut John Glenn’s hands and legs are visible at the lower edge of the image. (Ohio State University)

During the 4 hour, 55 minute, 23 second flight, the Mercury capsule orbited the Earth three times. John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.  (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had orbited the Earth 12 April 1961.)

Friendship 7 is hoisted aboard USS Noa (DD-841). (U.S. Navy)

After re-entry, the capsule parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean, only six miles from the recovery ship, USS Noa (DD-841).

Mercury spacecraft profile with dimensions. (NASA)

The Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, was built by McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, St. Louis, Missouri. It was the 13th Mercury capsule built. Designed to carry one pilot, it could be controlled in pitch, roll and yaw by steam thrusters fueled by hydrogen peroxide. The Mercury was 7 feet, 2.83 inches (2.206 meters) long, not including its retro rocket pack. The spacecraft was generally conical, and had a maximum diameter of 6 feet, 2.50 inches (1.885 meters). It weighed 2,700 pounds (1,224.7 kilograms) at launch.

Diagram of Atlas LV-3B (Space Launch Report)

The rocket, a “1-½ stage” liquid-fueled Atlas LV-3B, number 109-D, was built by the  Convair Division of General Dynamics at San Diego, California. It was developed from a U.S. Air Force SM-65 Atlas D intercontinental ballistic missile, modified for use as a “man-rated” orbital launch vehicle.

The LV-3B was 65 feet (19.812 meters) long from the base to the Mercury adapter section, and the tank section is 10 feet (3.038 meters) in diameter. The complete Mercury-Atlas orbital launch vehicle is 93 feet (28.436 meters) tall, including the escape tower. When ready for launch it weighed approximately 260,000 pounds (118,000 kilograms) and could place a 3,000 pound (1,360 kilogram) payload into low Earth orbit.

The Atlas’ three engines were built by the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation, Inc., at Canoga Park, California. Two Rocketdyne LR89-NA-5 engines and one LR105-NA-5 produced 341,140 pounds (1,517.466 kilonewtons) of thrust. The rocket was fueled by a highly-refined kerosene, RP-1, with liquid oxygen as the oxidizer.

Friendship 7 is displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

John Glenn's Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)
John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft, Friendship 7, on display at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

19 February 1986

Mir DOS-7/Proton 8K82K launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Site 200, 21:28:23 UTC, 19 February 1986.
Mir DOS-7/Proton 8K82K launch at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Site 200, 21:28:23 UTC, 19 February 1986.

19 February 1986: The core module of the Mir space station (DOS-7) (Dolgovremennaya Orbitalnaya Stanziya) was launched from Site 200 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Proton 8K82K rocket. This was the first section of the space station. It consisted of living quarters and environmental systems, engines, and four air locks to which additional modules would be attached.

The Mir was unmanned when it was placed in low Earth orbit. The first two-man crew arrived 15 March 1986 and began bringing the space station systems online. The first expedition stayed aboard for 51 days.

The Mir Core Module was 13.13 meters (43.077 feet) long with a diameter of 4.15 meters (13.616 feet). The solar arrays had a span of 20.73 meters (68.012 feet). The habitable volume of the module was 90 cubic meters (3,178 cubic feet). At launch  it had a mass of 20,400 kilograms (44,974.3 pounds).

The Proton 8K82K was a four-stage liquid-fueled heavy lift rocket. The first stage, Proton K-1, was 21.20 meters (69.554 feet) long with a diameter of 4.15 meters (13.616 feet). Fully fueled, it had a mass of 450,510 kilograms (993,205 pounds). It carried enough hypergolic fuel to power the six RD-253 engines for 124 seconds, producing 67,821.2 kiloNewtons (15,246,812 pounds) of thrust. The second stage, Proton K-2, was 14.00 meters (45.932 feet) long, with the same diameter as the first stage. Its fully-fueled mass was 167,828 kilograms (369,997 pounds). Its four RD-0210 engines burned for 206 seconds, producing 9,596.8 kiloNewtons (2,157,447 pounds) of thrust. The Proton K-3 stage was 6.50 meters (21.326 feet) long, and again, had a diameter of 4.15 meters. The gross mass of the third stage was 50,747 kilograms (111,878 pounds). The single RD-0212 engine burned for 238 seconds, producing 630.2 kiloNewtons (141,675 pounds) of thrust. The final, fourth stage, Proton 11S824, was 5.50 meters (18.045 feet) long with a diameter of 3.70 meters (12.139 feet). Gross mass was 13,360 kilograms (29,454 pounds). It had a single RD-58M engine which burned liquid oxygen and kerosene. It produced 85.02 kiloNewtons (19,113 pounds) of thrust for 610 seconds.

The Proton 8K82K could place a 20,000 kilogram (44,092 pound) payload into low Earth orbit. The rocket was first launched in 1965 and was used until 2003. More than 300 of them were launched.

The Mir space station was continually expanded. It was occupied for 4,592 consecutive days. It remained in orbit until 23 March 2001.

The Mir space station core module (DOS-7) in Earth orbit with solar panel array extended.
The Mir space station core module (DOS-7) in Earth orbit with solar panel array extended.

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

18 February 1977

Space Shuttle Enterprise captive flight test, 18 February 197718 February 1977: The prototype space shuttle orbiter Enterprise (OV-101) made its first captive flight aboard NASA 905, the Boeing 747-123 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. On this flight, no one was aboard Enterprise. NASA 905 was flown by Aircraft Commander Fitzhugh L. Fulton, Jr., Pilot Thomas C. McMurty, and Flight Engineers Louis E. Guidry, Jr. and Victor W. Horton.

This photograph shows the crew of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905, in 1981: From left, they are, Tom McMurty, pilot; Vic Horton, flight engineer; Fitz Fulton, command pilot; and Ray Young, flight engineer (replacing Guidry). The Space Shuttle Columbia is attached to NASA 905. (NASA)
This photograph shows the crew of the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905, in 1981: From left, they are, Tom McMurty, pilot; Vic Horton, flight engineer; Fitz Fulton, command pilot; and Ray Young, flight engineer (replacing Guidry). The Space Shuttle Columbia is attached to NASA 905. (NASA)

The duration of the first captive flight was 2 hours, 5 minutes. The Enterprise/SCA combination reached a maximum speed of 287 miles per hour (462 kilometers per hour) and altitude of 16,000 feet (4,877 meters).

NASA describes the photograph above:

The Space Shuttle prototype Enterprise rides smoothly atop NASA’s first Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), NASA 905, during the first of the shuttle program’s Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, in 1977. During the nearly one year-long series of tests, Enterprise was taken aloft on the SCA to study the aerodynamics of the mated vehicles and, in a series of five free flights, tested the glide and landing characteristics of the orbiter prototype.

In this photo, the main engine area on the aft end of Enterprise is covered with a tail cone to reduce aerodynamic drag that affects the horizontal tail of the SCA, on which tip fins have been installed to increase stability when the aircraft carries an orbiter.

Boeing 747-123, N905NA, during wake vortex studies, 20 September 1974. The other aircraft in the photograph are a Cessna T-37B, N807NA and a Learjet 24, N701NA. (NASA)
Boeing 747-123, N905NA, during wake vortex studies, 20 September 1974. The other aircraft in the photograph are a Cessna T-37B, N807NA, and a Learjet 24, N701NA. (NASA)

NASA 905 (the airplane’s call sign is based on its FAA registration, N905NA) was originally built by Boeing for American Airlines as a 747-123 airliner, serial number 20107. It was delivered to American 29 October 1970 with the registration N9668. NASA acquired the airliner 18 July 1974 for use in wake vortex studies.

Modification to the SCA configuration began in 1976. Most of the interior was stripped and the fuselage was strengthened. Mounting struts for the space shuttle were added and end plates for additional stability were attached to the horizontal tail plane. The 747 retained the red, white and blue horizontal stripes of American Airlines’ livery until the early 1980s.

The standard Pratt & Whitney JT95-3A high bypass ratio turbofan engines were upgraded to JT9D-7J turbofans. This increased thrust from 46,950 pounds to 50,000 pounds (222.41 kilonewtons) each. The JT9D-7J is a two-spool, axial-flow turbofan engine with a single stage fan section, 14-stage compressor section and 4-stage turbine. This engine has a maximum diameter of 7 feet, 11.6 inches (2.428 meters), is 12 feet, 10.2 inches (3.917 meters) long and weighs 8,850 pounds (4,014 kilograms).

This image shows NASA 905 as configured for wake vortex studies and as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Artwork courtesy of Tim Bradley Imaging.
This image shows NASA 905 as configured for wake vortex studies and as a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. Artwork courtesy of Tim Bradley Imaging.

NASA 905 is 231 feet, 10.2 inches (70.668 meters) long with a wingspan of 195 feet, 8 inches (59.639 meters) and overall height of 63 feet, 5 inches (19.329 meters). Its empty weight is 318,053 pounds (144,266 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight is 710,000 pounds (322,050 kilograms).

While carrying a space shuttle, the SCA maximum speed is 0.6 Mach (443 miles per hour, or 695  kilometers per hour). The service ceiling is 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) and its range is 1,150 miles (1,850.75 kilometers).

NASA 905 is displayed at Independence Park at Space Center Houston, a science and space learning center in Houston, Texas.

35 years, 2 months, 10 days after their first combination flight, the prototype Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise (OV-101) and Shuttle Carrier Aircraft NASA 905, touch down together for the last time, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, 11;23 a.m., EST, 27 April 2012. (AP)
35 years, 2 months, 10 days after their first combination flight, the prototype Space Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise (OV-101) and Shuttle Carrier Aircraft NASA 905, touch down together for the last time, at John F. Kennedy International Airport, 11:23 a.m., EST, 27 April 2012. (AP)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes