Author Topic: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty  (Read 12176 times)

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #165 on: 02/24/2013 12:55 AM »

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #166 on: 02/24/2013 12:57 AM »

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #167 on: 02/24/2013 12:58 AM »
 The Saga of USA 53 - Found, Lost, Found Again and Lost Again

(By Ted Molczan)

Satellite sleuths will recall Space Shuttle mission STS 36, which deployed a secret CIA/Air Force satellite named USA 53 (90019B, 20516) on March 1, 1990.  Aviation Week reported it to be a large digital imaging reconnaissance satellite.  Members of an observation network which I organized, observed the satellite between the 2nd and 4th of March.  It was deployed into a 62 deg inclination, 254 km altitude orbit.  Early on March 3rd, it maneuvered to a 271 km altitude.

Observers noted that the object was extremely bright, reaching a visual magnitude of -1 under favorable conditions.  Its brightness was similar to that of the very large KH-9 and KH-11 imaging reconnaissance satellites.

On March 16th, the Soviet news media reported that several large pieces of debris from the satellite had been detected in orbit on March 7th, and suggested that it had exploded.  In response to Western media enquiries, the Pentagon stated that hardware elements from the successful mission of STS 36 would decay over the next six weeks".  As expected, the Air Force statement was vague about the status of USA 53. The debris could have been from a break-up of the satellite, or simply incidental debris.  Only five pieces of debris were ever catalogued.  An intensive search by observers in late March failed to locate the satellite.  Six months later, the mystery of USA 53 was solved, through the efforts of three European observers.

On October 19th, 1990, I received a message from Russell Eberst, stating that he, along with Pierre Neirinck and Daniel Karcher had found an object in a 65 deg inclination, 811 km altitude orbit, which did not match the orbit of any known payload, rocket body or piece of debris. He suspected that the object could be a secret U.S. payload, and asked me to try and identify it.

There are many secret U.S. objects in orbit, however, initial orbital elements, released in accordance with a United Nations treaty, are available for most of them.  Most objects could be easily ruled out on the basis of orbital inclination.  There remained three recent high inclination launches for which the U.N. had not yet received elements, and three satellites in near 65 deg inc orbits which had been tracked for a short time by observers, then lost after they maneuvered.  I found an excellent match with one of the latter, USA 53.  There were no close matches with any of the other objects.

My analysis revealed that the orbital plane of the mystery object was almost exactly coplanar with USA 53 on March 7, 1990, the same date that the Soviets found debris from USA 53 in orbit!  This is a strong indication that the object in question actually is USA 53, now in a new orbit.  The debris may have been connected with the maneuvers to the new orbit.

USA 53 was successfully tracked by observers until early November 1990, when it maneuvered once more.  The orbit was raised slightly on or about Nov 2nd, which is reflected in the most current elements.  Bad weather prevented further observation attempts until 7 November, by which time, the object had made a much more significant maneuver, and could no longer be found.  So far, all attempts to once again locate USA 53 have failed.

Source:

http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/imint/tm_usa53.html


Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #168 on: 02/24/2013 01:00 AM »
She’s one of the boys

(By Mike Mullane)

The highlight of our meager postflight PR tour was a visit to George Bush, Senior’s White House. We were shocked by the invitation. STS-36 had been virtually ignored in the press. There were no women on the crew, no minorities, no firsts of any kind that might have turned out the press to cover a presidential handshake. Whatever the reason, the invitation was sincerely appreciated.

We met the President in the Oval Office, taking seats in sofas set around a coffee table. Mr. Bush sat in a nearby chair. The questions he asked indicated that he was well briefed on our mission. But it was hard to carry on a conversation. A steady stream of aides and secretaries were constantly coming to his side to get answers to questions and his signature on documents. I wondered if the man was ever alone, even on the toilet.

We left the President to his never-ending work and followed Barbara Bush on a tour of the White House. If I had not been aware she was the First Lady, I would have never guessed it from her behavior. She was talkative, witty, and completely devoid of any air of celebrity. She reminded me of my mother. I could easily picture her baiting a hook or hoisting a beer or throwing another log on the campfire.

We stepped into an ancient elevator for a trip to the upstairs living quarters. With five astronauts, five wives, Mrs. Bush, and an assistant, we were cheek to jowl in the small volume. Mrs. Bush was directly behind me and I did my best to resist being crushed into her front. Before the elevator door closed, Millie, the First Dog, somehow managed to wiggle under our feet to make it an even tighter squeeze.

As the box crept upward, the silence was total. In spite of Mrs. Bush’s easy manner we were all very self-conscious of her company. To occupy the uncomfortable seconds we watched the elevator indicator panel with the same intensity as an astronaut watching a space rendezvous. Some of us moved slightly to accommodate the dog. Chris Casper, John’s wife, finally cracked under the oppressing silence. She nervously offered an icebreaker – “Oh, I feel it between my legs.”

While it was obvious she was referring to Millie’s wagging tail, the words hung over our sardined group like really bad flatulence. A reference to anything between an woman’s legs was tough to comment on in polite company, much less in the company of the First Lady of the nation. Chris quickly realized her mistake and tried to recover by amending her words. She nervously added, “I mean I feel the dog between my…  er… my legs.”

It was just too much for me to keep my mouth shut. She had served up a ball just begging to be spiked. I couldn’t resist. “Are you sure it’s not John’s hand?” I inquired. My comment elicited a few snickers and an elbow jab from Donna. As had frequently been the case in my life, I immediately wished the joker in me would have kept quite. What was Mrs. Bush thinking? I wondered. Maybe this time I had gone too far.

I need not have worried. As regret shot through my brain, I felt Mrs. Bush’s hand lightly pat me on a butt cheek as she said, “That’s John’s hand.” Then she winked at Donna and said, “I’ve got him right where I want him.” I was stunned. She was a Mike Mullane clone. She couldn’t let a perfect setup fall to the sand – she had to nail it.

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #169 on: 02/24/2013 01:01 AM »
After tea, Mrs. Bush led us downstairs to finish our tour, giving us a running commentary on the history of the rooms we passed. But she skipped over some recent history I was privy to. An astronaut who had made an earlier White House visit had told of entering a room in the company of Mrs. Bush and being brought to a sudden halt by the overpowering stench of dog crap.

Everybody had quickly fixated on the source… Millie’s deposit. The astronaut witness had recounted how a silence as heavy as the odor had enveloped their group. Nobody wanted to acknowledge the obvious, that Millie had desecrated the carpet. But, without missing a beat, Barbara Bush turned to look at her astronaut visitors and jokingly warned, “If I read about this in the Post tomorrow, you’re all dead meat!”

Mrs. Bush would have fit perfectly into our TNFG gang. I could see her at the Outpost and Pete’s BBQ and on the LCC roof. There are some things the trappings of wealth and power and great political office can never dissolve. Among these are the bonds of the military family. As the wife of a WWII naval aviator, Barbara Bush had long ago experienced everything we had lived and were continuing to live… fear, the heartache of hearing “Taps” played over friends’ graves, and consoling grieving widows and fatherless children.

As we walked away, I thought of those dissident Wellesley women. Mrs. Bush had been invited to give a commencement address at Wellesley College, but, after accepting, some of the students had organized a movement to disinvite her. These women considered her a poor role model since her only identity was through her husband. Apparently, for them, being a wife and mother were not qualifying credentials for a commencement speaker.

They had been right about one thing – Mrs. Bush shouldn’t have been invited to speak at their commencement merely because she was the First Lady. Any woman could be one of those. Rather, she should have been invited because she was a member of the Greatest Generation, because she had kissed her man off to war and been left to wonder if she would ever see him again, because – as loving and supportive wife of a WWII naval aviator – she had done her part to save the world. Those were commencement address qualifications for any college, even Wellesley. (Mike Mullane, “Riding Rockets,” Scribner 2006 – edited)

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #170 on: 02/24/2013 01:03 AM »
So ends this look back on the STS-36 mission and other space-related events during the first months of the year 1990.

As always, here is a link to the mission’s high-res photos in the L2 section:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=14468.0



And, although I have extensively quoted several times from Mike Mullane’s outrageous tales of a Space Shuttle astronaut, much of the best stuff would have collided with the language rules of this forum. So, if you are interested in all the “dirty” details, once again, I highly recommend reading “Riding Rockets.” 



“It may be more than you wanted to know about today’s all-American boys laying it all on the line to fly the Space Shuttle. Mike’s story is honest… brutally honest. You haven’t read it before, and you are not likely to see it in the future.” (Walter Cunningham, Apollo 7 astronaut and author of “The All-American Boys”)


See also:

http://mikemullane.com/

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #171 on: 02/24/2013 01:05 AM »
"The Hubble Space Telescope represents the single biggest leap in astronomical viewing capacity since Galileo put a telescope to his eye. With that kind of capability, strange new things are going to be discovered."

Edward J. Weiler, HST program scientist


And things just kept getting stranger and stranger, or should I say “curiouser and curiouser,” when the first of the Great Observatories had finally reached orbit…
« Last Edit: 02/24/2013 01:13 AM by Ares67 »

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #172 on: 02/24/2013 01:07 AM »
Relive the epic launch of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard Discovery and the “Trouble with Hubble” in my next Space Shuttle history presentation here at NSF – tentatively scheduled for April 2013.


Discovery STS-31 – An Adventure Beyond the Mirror


So, see ya on the other side…

- Oliver (aka Ares67)   :)

Offline Archibald

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #173 on: 02/24/2013 11:30 AM »
Coincidentally I'm re-reading Riding rockets this week-end.  ;D

As for Ariane flight 36 it is pretty much a case study in Murphy Law history.

It is Friday evening in Les Mureaux, near Paris.
A metalurgist working on the coolant assembly of a Viking engine found two tubes that doesn't match.
On his own initiative he slightly polish the tube so that it fits into the other. Because this is a non standard procedure, and because it is late on Friday and his boss is not there, he decides to signal the non-standard procedure by placing his red cloth into the tube. It is apparently a metalurgist tradition.
On Monday the flashy color will catch his eye, he will remind, and signal his superiors what he has done.
He goes home for the week end.
And he fell ill during that week end.
On monday his fellow co-workers found the two tube matching pretty well, and the assembly is cleared. It goes into the Viking, the Viking into the booster, the booster to Ariane, and Ariane to Kourou.
... with the cloth still inside.

The cloth blocked the flow of water cooling the Viking; the Viking lost power, ruining the rocket trajectory from the beginning.
Incidentally, Ariane missed the top of the launch tower by 2 meters only; it did not struck the tower only because it was a 44L with eight engines that lifted the doomed rocket high and far enough it did not damaged the pad.

It happened that, due to delays with one of the two japanese satellites, flight 35 and flight 36 swapped their payloads and Ariane type.
Had flight 36 been an Ariane 40 as planned, the engine loss would have been even more brutal; Ariane would have struck its launch tower in a major disaster.

http://liris.cnrs.fr/amille/enseignements/Master_PRO/BIA/chap10.htm

http://www.forum-conquete-spatiale.fr/t10688-retour-sur-l-echec-d-ariane-4-v36

http://www.ina.fr/video/CAB06056640/ja2-20h-emission-du-23-fevrier-1990.fr.html

Was Arianespace lucky or unlucky on that flight ? it's anyone guess...
« Last Edit: 02/24/2013 11:36 AM by Archibald »
That logarithm in the rocket equation is rather annoying...

Offline Kyra's kosmos

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #174 on: 02/25/2013 02:25 AM »
Another view of the phantom headand the RME-III experiment

Offline Kyra's kosmos

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #175 on: 02/25/2013 02:45 AM »
The STS-36 locker configuration.  I found a good close up picture of the label of the secure locker. Does anyone or can anyone say how these locks worked?

Offline Overflow

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #176 on: 02/25/2013 08:58 PM »
Not only did I get to read up on a mission done by my favorite orbiter, but I also got to see construction pictures of Endeavour! Awesome!!

Have you thought about making threads filled with Space Shuttle construction pictures?

Offline Ares67

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #177 on: 02/26/2013 05:55 PM »
Not only did I get to read up on a mission done by my favorite orbiter, but I also got to see construction pictures of Endeavour! Awesome!!

Have you thought about making threads filled with Space Shuttle construction pictures?

I'm glad that you've enjoyed the trip back in time.

This project is mainly centered around reliving the shuttle missions. But I'm always looking at other space-related events - and sometimes (in order to give a little perspective) major historical events the world was watching at the time (see the Mandela reference in this thread, and of course I was also hinting at the Middle East situation in 1990 - more will follow)

I'm not planning "construction threads" - there are already some really great high-resolution construction photo threads for each orbiter at L2. That doesn't mean I won't refer to orbiter construction or maintenance cycles during my planned chronological journey through shuttle history in the coming years.

So stay tuned for that - and a report on the next 1990 flight of your favorite orbiter (Atlantis STS-38) is already planned for the end of this year. ;)

Offline Lewis007

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #178 on: 02/27/2013 06:39 PM »
With regard to the classified payload of this mission, the Wings in Orbit supplement (attached) issued by NASA states that the main cargo was the KH 11-10 electro-optical reconnaissance satellite ! (page 32)

Offline Kyra's kosmos

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Re: Atlantis STS-36 – Tour of Duty
« Reply #179 on: 02/28/2013 06:20 PM »
With regard to the classified payload of this mission, the Wings in Orbit supplement (attached) issued by NASA states that the main cargo was the KH 11-10 electro-optical reconnaissance satellite ! (page 32)

Interesting, I wonder if that was an accidental leak or not. What are the rules regarding disclosing this for those who knew at the time, given this is an official NASA publication?

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