Tag Archives: Space Shuttle Program

8 July 2011, 15:29:03 UTC, T minus Zero

The flight crew of Atlantis, STS-135. Left to right: COL Rex J. Waldheim, USAF, LCOL Douglas G. Hurley, USMC, CAPT Christopher J. Ferguson, USN, and Sandra Hall Magnus, Ph.D. (NASA)

8 July 2011: At 11:29:03 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time, the Space Shuttle Atlantis (OV-104) was launched on Mission STS-135 from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This was the very last of 135 flights for the United States space shuttle program. The mission was to carry assembly modules and supplies to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit. The mission had a total elapsed time of 12 days, 18 hours, 28 minutes, 50 seconds. Atlantis arrived at the Shuttle Landing Facility 21 July 2011 at 09-57 UTC.

The mission commander was Captain Christopher J. Ferguson, U.S. Navy, on his third space flight. Atlantis‘ pilot for STS-135 was Lieutenant Colonel Douglas G. Hurley, United States Marine Corps, on his second shuttle flight. Mission specialists were Sandra Hall Magnus, Ph.D. and Colonel Rex J. Waldheim, U.S. Air Force. This was Dr. Magnus’ third space flight. She spent a total of 157 days, 8 hours, 42 minutes in space. Colonel Waldheim, the mission flight engineer, was on his third shuttle mission.

Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis first flew 3 October 1985 and made 33 space flights. It spent 306 days, 14 hours, 12 minutes, 43 seconds in space. Atlantis orbited the Earth 4,848 times and traveled miles 125,935,769 (202,673,974 kilometers) When it was retired at the end of STS-135, Atlantis had flown just one-third of its designed operational life. The space ship is on display at the Kennedy Space Center.

Since the space shuttle fleet was retired, the United States of America has had no manned spaceflight capability.

Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-135) launch from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 15:29:03 UTC, 8 July 2011. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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29 June 1965

Captain Joe Henry Engle, United States Air Force
Captain Joe Henry Engle, United States Air Force

29 June 1965: At 10:21:17.6 PDT, Captain Joe H. Engle, United States Air Force, flying the Number Three North American Aviation X-15A-3 research rocketplane, 56-6672, was air-dropped from the NB-52B Stratofortress mothership, Balls 8, over Delamar Dry Lake in Nevada. This was the 138th flight of the X-15 Program, and Joe Engle’s 12th. He fired the Reaction Motors XLR99-RM-1 engine for 81.0 seconds and accelerated to Mach 4.94 (3,432 miles per hour, 5,523 kilometers per hour). The X-15 climbed to an altitude of 280,600 feet (85,527 meters, 53.14 miles). He touched down at Edwards Air Force Base after 10 minutes, 34.2 seconds of flight. His parents were at Edwards to witness his flight.

Captain Engle qualified for Astronaut wings on this flight, the third and youngest Air Force pilot to do so.

Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force
Command Pilot Astronaut insignia, United States Air Force

From 1963 and 1965, Joe Engle made 14 flights in the three X-15s. After leaving the X-15 Program, he was assigned to the Apollo Program, the only NASA astronaut with prior spaceflight experience. He was the back-up Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 14 and he was the designated LM pilot for Apollo 17 but was replaced by Harrison Schmidt when Apollo 18 was cancelled. Next he went on to the Space Shuttle Program. He was a Mission Commander for the Enterprise flight tests and for Columbia‘s second orbital flight, during which he became the only pilot to manually fly a Mach 25 approach and landing. Finally, he commanded the Discovery STS 51-1 mission.

Joe Engle retired from the Air Force in 1986. He was then promoted to the rank of Major General and assigned to the Kansas Air National Guard. He has flown at least 185 aircraft types and accumulated 14,700 flight hours, with 224 hours in space.

Captain Joe H. Engle, U.S. Air Force, with the North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1965. (NASA)
Captain Joe H. Engle, U.S. Air Force, with the North American Aviation X-15A-2, 56-6671, at Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1965. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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25 April 1990

Hubble Space Telescope after release from Discovery, STS-31, 25 April 1990. (NASA)
Hubble Space Telescope after release from Discovery, STS-31, 25 April 1990. (NASA)

25 April 1990: In orbit 380 miles (612 kilometers) above Earth, the crew of Discovery (STS-31) released the Hubble Space Telescope from the cargo bay. This satellite was designed to study the universe in ultraviolet, visible and infrared light, with a clarity never before seen.

A recent Hubble image of the Bubble Nebula, NGC 7635 (NASA)
A recent Hubble image of the Bubble Nebula, NGC 7635, an emission nebula at a distance of 11,000 light years. (NASA)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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24 April 1990, 12:33:51 UTC, T minus Zero

Discovery (STS-31) lifts off Pad 39B with the Hubble Space Telescope. Sister ship Columbia waits on Pad 39A. (NASA)
Discovery (STS-31) lifts off Pad 39B with the Hubble Space Telescope. Sister ship Columbia waits on Pad 39A. (NASA)

24 April 1990, 12:33:51 UTC: Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-31) lifted off from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Florida, on a mission to place the Hubble Space Telescope in Earth Orbit.

The STS-31 flight crew were Loren J. Shriver, Commander; Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Pilot; Steven A. Hawley, Mission Specialist; Kathryn D. Sullivan, Mission Specialist; Bruce McCandless II, Mission Specialist.

Discovery (STS-31) flight crew: Seated, left to right: Colonel Charles F. Bolden, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps; Colonel Loren J. Shriver, U.S. Air Force; Lieutenant Commander Kathryn D. Sullivan, U.S. Navy. Standing, left to right: Captain Bruce McCandless II, U.S. Navy; Mr. Steven A. Hawley. (NASA)
Discovery (STS-31) flight crew: Seated, left to right: Colonel Charles F. Bolden, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps¹; Colonel Loren J. Shriver, U.S. Air Force; Lieutenant Commander Kathryn D. Sullivan, U.S. Navy.² Standing, left to right: Captain Bruce McCandless II, U.S. Navy; Mr. Steven A. Hawley. (NASA)

The Hubble Space Telescope is named after Edwin Hubble, an early 20th century astronomer who discovered galaxies beyond our own Milky Way galaxy. It is an optical Ritchey–Chrétien telescope (an improved Cassegrain reflector). Star light enters the telescope and is collected by a large 7 foot, 10.5 inch (2.400 meter) diameter hyperbolic mirror at the back end. The light is reflected forward to a smaller hyperbolic mirror, which focuses the light and projects it back through an opening in the main reflector. The light is then gathered by the electronic sensors of the space telescope. These mirrors are among the most precise object ever made, having been polished to an accuracy of 10 nanometers.

The Hubble Space Telescope being deployed from Disovery's cargo bay. (NASA)
The Hubble Space Telescope being deployed from Discovery’s cargo bay, 25 April 1990. (NASA)

The Hubble Space Telescope is 43.5 feet (13.259 meters long. The light tube has a diameter of 10 feet (3.048 meters) and the aft equipment section is 14 feet (4.267 meters) in diameter. The spacecraft weighs 27,000 pounds (12,247 kilograms).

The HST orbits the Earth every 97 minutes at an altitude of 320 nautical miles (593 kilometers). The telescope was last serviced in 2009. Originally designed to operate for 15 years, the HST is now in its 26th.

The Hubble Space Telescope in Earth orbit. (NASA)
The Hubble Space Telescope in Earth orbit. (NASA)

¹ Colonel Bolden reached the rank of Major General, United States Marine Corps, before retiring in 2003. He was served as Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration, 17 July 2009–20 January 2017.

² Lieutenant Commander Sullivan left NASA in 1993, and retired from the U.S. Navy with the rank of Captain, in 2006. She served as Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere/Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 28 February 2013–20 January 2017.

© 2017,  Bryan R. Swopes

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