Author Topic: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty  (Read 87035 times)

Offline Ares67

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Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« on: 09/04/2012 02:56 pm »
Before we start…

The return to space of OV-102 Columbia in the summer of ’89 came almost exactly twenty years after another spaceship called “Columbia” had embarked on an epic journey to the Moon. Preparing this STS-28 thread, I already had planned to include the 20th anniversary festivities remembering the flight of Apollo 11. And while I was writing about Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon, the sad news of his death reached me on that last weekend in August 2012. Of course this is still a Space Shuttle mission report, but in memory of Neil Armstrong I’ve expanded the Apollo 11 part. And in the usual manner established during my previous threads, I’ve also included all the other interesting aerospace events that happened at the time of Columbia’s call back to duty. The summer of ’89 was a season for endings as well as beginnings, and also a moment that sparked dreams about our future in space… So, let’s start...


In memory of Neil A. Armstrong (1930 – 2012) – First Man on the Moon, July 1969

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #1 on: 09/04/2012 02:59 pm »
“You glorify the past when the future dries up”

U2, “God Part II”


That’s the danger, of course. You get so caught up in reliving the old days that you stop looking ahead.

I was talking to some NASA executives recently. I’d been boasting that one of “Final Frontier’s” objectives is to restore public interest in the space program to the level it was in the legendary 1960s, back when NASA was the envy of the world and astronauts were American heroes. Their response – that the space agency would prefer not to rest on its laurels – took me by surprise. Besides, they said, we were walking on the Moon in those days, for God’s sake.

I understood what they meant. As far as stirring up the public imagination goes, how do you top men on the Moon? These are different times. Today, media coverage of the space program means Space Station budget wars and crew wakeup calls by Robin Williams. It’s hard to imagine an episode of “Knot’s Landing” being interrupted by a shuttle launch.

But even though I’ve been accused of being an eternal optimist, I still believe the best is yet to come. I think we can top men on the Moon. As I write this, Voyager 2 is speeding towards Neptune, and the Magellan spacecraft is headed toward Venus. Both will open new worlds to the human imagination, and it is mind-boggling how that can be perceived as commonplace. If you ask me, those missions are miracles.

Looking ahead, there are plenty of worlds left to explore, including the 99.9 percent of the Moon’s surface that the Apollo astronauts didn’t visit. There are permanent Space Stations, Mars missions and the search for extraterrestrial life – all exciting, and all inevitable.

We celebrate the past by marking the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are modern-day heroes, and they and their fellow lunar explorers deserve our tribute. But don’t get us wrong. We don’t intend to sit in our rocking chairs talking about how “Joe Louis was the greatest boxer that ever lived.” Our real interest, and our responsibility, is to make sure the future doesn’t dry up.

(Editorial by William Rooney, Publisher, “Final Frontier” Magazine, July/August 1989)

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #2 on: 09/04/2012 03:01 pm »
Twenty years ago the “Eagle” landed on the surface of the Moon. Another eagle is a prominent feature on the STS-28 insignia designed by the crew. The astronauts said the patch portrays the pride the American people have in their manned spaceflight program. It depicts America (represented by the bald eagle) guiding the space program (the Space Shuttle) safely home from an orbital mission. The view looks south on Baja California and the west coast of the United States as the space travelers reenter the atmosphere. The hypersonic contrails created by the eagle and shuttle represent the American flag. The crew called the simple boldness of the design symbolic of American's unfaltering commitment to leadership in the exploration and development of space. (Description on STS-28 decal – edited)

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #3 on: 09/04/2012 03:06 pm »
Five for flight – a crew for Columbia

STS-28 is the first mission since the return to flight that rookies outnumber spaceflight veterans. The flight will provide the astronaut corps, recently hit by the resignation of astronauts George “Pinky” Nelson and Jon McBride, with three new spaceflight veterans at the close off the mission.

Dick Richards, selected as an astronaut candidate in May 1980, will be joined by two of the May 1984 selection class, Mark Brown and Jim Adamson. Richards will pilot Columbia on her first flight in almost 542 months, while Adamson and Brown will take on the duties of mission specialists, having a hand in the deployment of the Department of Defense’s secret military satellite. Both were members of the famous “Maggot” class of 1984.

The crew is not without seasoned veterans. Commander Brewster Shaw, veteran of the STS-9/Spacelab 1 mission aboard Columbia and STS 61-B aboard Atlantis, will be taking the commander’s seat for the second time. He led the 61-B crew, launched November 26, 1985, in their space construction tasks, which investigated possible Space Station construction methods.

Mission Specialist David Leestma, who will be making his second spaceflight, last flew aboard Challenger for mission 41-G. During STS 41-G, launched October 5, 1984, Leestma joined America’s first female spacewalker, Kathryn Sullivan, on her historic 3-hour-29-minute walk in space to simulate installation of a valve assembly into satellite fuel lines as part of an effort to investigate the feasibility of on-orbit refueling of satellites. He had been scheduled to fly on the mission after Challenger, the Astro 1 flight, which would have observed Halley’s Comet in March 1986.

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #4 on: 09/04/2012 03:09 pm »
Commander Brewster Hopkinson Shaw, Jr., Col. USAF, was born May 16, 1945, in Cass City, Michigan. He’s five feet eight inches tall and weighs 135 pounds. Shaw earned both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1968 and 1969, respectively. He entered the Air Force in 1969 and attended undergraduate pilot training at Craig AFB, Alabama. Assigned to 352nd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam, he served as an F-100 combat fighter pilot in March 1971. Shaw was later sent to the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, where he flew F-4 combat missions. In 1975 he attended the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where he served as instructor from August 1977 to July 1978. Brewster Shaw has logged more than 5,000 hours flying time, including 644 hours in combat aircraft. He was selected as an astronaut candidate in January 1978. His NASA assignments include support crew and entry CapCom for STS-3 and STS-4, staff member of the Roger’s Presidential Commission investigating the Challenger accident and head of the orbiter return to flight team responsible for implementing safety modifications to the shuttle fleet. Shaw piloted Columbia for the ten-day STS-9/Spacelab 1 mission and served as Commander of mission 61-B aboard Atlantis on his second mission, bringing his total time in space to 413 hours. “In November 1985 Shaw was named to command Mission 61-N, a Department of Defense shuttle mission then scheduled for launch in late 1986,” adds Michael Cassutt in ‘Who’s Who in Space (ISS Edition 1999). “The Challenger accident delayed the launch by three years, by which time 61-N had been renamed STS-28.”

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #5 on: 09/04/2012 03:11 pm »

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #6 on: 09/04/2012 03:16 pm »
On February 24, 1987, Brewster Shaw experienced a close call with a T-38 jet, as was reported by JSC Space News Roundup: “Pilots know that practice makes perfect, and Rob Rivers has recent evidence to underscore the point. Rivers, a research pilot and aerospace engineer in the Aircraft Operations Division since October 1986, concluded a routine checkout flight in a T-38 Talon on February 23 with a series of simulated no-flap approaches and one-engine approaches to Ellington Field. He thought he could use the practice, he said.

The next day, he was flying a T-38 into Los Angeles with one engine out, the other on fire and the cockpit filled with smoke. ‘I guess from a seat-of-the-pants aspect, I was happy I had practiced the day before,’ Rivers said. He and astronaut Brewster H. Shaw, Col. USAF, were in NASA 914, bound for Los Alamitos Army Air Field southeast of Los Angeles, when a bright flash erupted in front of the canopy of the twin-engine jet. They were about ten miles out over the pacific on the northbound leg of their approach. Rivers, who was flying in the front seat, felt a shock on his right hand, which was on the throttle. There was a loud bang, then a jolt.

‘I turned toward shore and asked for an emergency approach,’ Rivers recalled. ‘The rear cockpit began filling up with smoke. I began shutting down the electrical system, turning off the generator, radio and other systems, and left one VHF radio on. That meant we had to do a VFR (Visual Flight Rules, or, with no instruments) landing. Colonel Shaw, who has flown into Los Alamitos more often than I have, took the stick and pointed the nose in the right direction.’

Rivers said they soon felt a second jolt, followed by a warning light indicating a fire in the right engine. They declared an emergency, telling the ground that the aircraft was on fire. ‘As we crossed the coast, we got a left engine fire light. We were over land, over densely populated areas, and the field was in sight,’ Rivers said. Because of the danger to underlying areas, and because hydraulic power for a T-38 is supplied by the engines, shutting down the left engine was not a viable option, Rivers said, and ejecting is always the last resort. ‘The aircraft was flying fine. That’s the big reason why we stayed with it.’

The potential danger to populated areas if they did have to eject was one reason why they flew in over the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Storage Area. ‘The aircraft could have impacted there with less danger to people if we’d had to eject,’ Rivers said. They were able to stay with the aircraft, however, and after touchdown Rivers cut power to the left engine. ‘We rolled out, came to a stop and raised the canopy. I looked over my left shoulder and saw a big fire in the back of the aircraft.’ Shaw got out first and came back to help Rivers when his feet got hung up in his oxygen line. From the rear of the canopy back to the vertical stabilizer was one big gaping hole. ‘All the fuel in the airplane was burning,’ Rivers said.

The T-38, built by the Northrop Corp., first flew in 1959 at Edwards Air Force Base. It was a direct outgrowth of Northrop’s N-156 program and later derivatives were the F-5 and the F-20 Tigershark. The Talon was selected by NASA in 1964 as an astronaut proficiency maintenance aircraft, and also is used in some research and development roles. With the loss of NASA 914, there are now twenty-five T-38’s at Ellington. An investigation board is studying the incident.” (JSC Space News Roundup, March 6, 1987)

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #7 on: 09/04/2012 03:19 pm »
Pilot Richard “Dick” Noel Richards, Cdr. USN, was born August 24, 1946 in Key West, Florida, but considers St. Louis, Missouri, his hometown. He’s five feet eight inches tall and weighs 155 pounds. Richards received a bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri in 1969 and a Master of Science in Aeronautical Systems from the University of West Florida in 1970. He was commissioned an Ensign in the Navy upon graduating from the University of Missouri and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1970.  Richards flew support missions in the A-4 Skyhawk and F-4 Phantom while being assigned to the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 33 at NAS Norfolk, Virginia. He then was deployed to the North Atlantic and Mediterranean aboard the USS America and USS Saratoga, where he again flew F-4s. In 1976 he was selected for test pilot training at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. After test pilot school Richards spent three and a half years as a project test pilot for automatic carrier landing systems development. As carrier suitability project officer for the F/A-18A Hornet he performed the airplane’s first shipboard catapult launches and arrested landings during initial sea trials in 1979. Richards has logged over 3,200 hours in fifteen types of aircraft. “Richards was one of the nineteen astronauts selected by NASA in May 1980, qualifying as a shuttle pilot in August 1981,” explains Michael Cassutt in ‘Who’s Who in Space’ (ISS Edition 1999). “He worked as deputy chief of aircraft operations and also managed the in-flight refueling of the Shuttle carrier Aircraft in addition to serving as a shuttle CapCom from April 1984 to September 1985.He was scheduled to be pilot aboard shuttle mission 61-E, the Spacelab Astro 1 intended to observe Halley’s Comet in March 1986.”

In an interview for the JSC Oral History Project (Jan. 26, 2006) STS-28 Pilot Dick Richards remembered how he got involved with the space program: “I know when that photograph came out of Earthrise, and I’m almost sure it was Apollo 8 that took that photograph, I just, like the rest of the world, was just stunned by that. And that’s when I first all of a sudden started connecting about the fact that, wow, this is really something we’re doing, going to the Moon.

So I started following it more closely, and I can’t recall when it was, but sometime between that point and the actual Apollo 11 landings, I actually did something I had never done before, which was wrote off to NASA and asked them about the astronauts and the space program and so forth. And they do like they’re doing right now, they sent me a packet of stuff, and of which was in there a compilation of the entire short summary of the biographies of all of the astronauts that they had.

So I read through the thing, just scanned through it. But I picked up on the fact that almost all of the current astronauts they had there were either current active duty military officers or former military officers and all of them, for the most part, were pilots, which was, I said, ‘Hey, that’s sort of where I’m heading as well, too.’ So I just sort of filed it away as I said, ‘Boy, that would be really fun to do if later on I got myself into a position to do that.’

I also noticed that they had enough information in there that all these guys were pilots and all of them test pilots as well, too. And the Navy at that point, I’d just come back from my summer cruise or either I was just going to it where they gave us an aviation oriented two months, and part of the two months was a little visit to Edwards Air Force Base, the test pilot school out there as well as Patuxent River. So I just sort of filed that away, saying if that ever happened to me, I’d be interested in doing that sort of thing.

Of course, Apollo landings came and went, Skylab started, and for the most part, though, I was busy being a naval officer at that particular point, and it wasn’t until John Young showed up at the naval air test pilot school that all of a sudden I said, ‘Hey, this connection that I thought of many years ago, it’s still here and it looks like my timing is just lucky enough to be right that they’re starting a new phase and maybe I can get into it.’ So that’s how I got involved, yeah.”

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #8 on: 09/04/2012 03:21 pm »
Mission Specialist David Cornell Leestma, Cdr. USN, was born May 6, 1949, in Muskegon, Michigan. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1971 and earned a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1972. After graduating first in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1971, Leestma was assigned to the USS Hepburn in Long Beach, California, before reporting to the U.S. Naval Post Graduate School in 1972. He earned his flight wings in October 1973 and was assigned to VF-124 in San Diego, California, for initial training in the F-14A Tomcat and then transferred to VF-32 in June 1974, stationed at Virginia Beach, Virginia. In 1977 Leestma was reassigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 4 at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California, where he did extensive work with the F-14A. Leestma has logged over 3,000 hours flying time. He was selected as astronaut candidate in May 1980 and in August 1983 became the first member of his astronaut group to be assigned to a flight crew – which flew STS 41-G in October 1984. That flight lasted 197.5 hours and 132 orbits. His second assignment would have been the cancelled 61-E / Astro 1 mission. Leestma became deputy director for flight crew operations in 1988.

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #9 on: 09/04/2012 03:23 pm »
Mission Specialist James Craig Adamson, Lt.-Col., USA, was born March 3, 1946, in Warsaw, New York, but considers Monarch, Montana, his hometown. He’s five feet 11 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1969 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 1977. Adamson was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army at West Point in 1969. He was a distinguished graduate of his flight class at the Army Aviation School, Fort Rucker, Alabama and flew with the Air Cavalry in Vietnam as team leader and air mission commander. Upon returning to the U.S., Adamson assumed command of a Hawk Missile Battery in Fort Bliss, Texas. Upon receiving his Masters from Princeton, Adamson assumed the position of assistant professor of aerodynamics at the U.S. Military Academy of West Point. In 1980, he graduated from the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at Patuxent River, Maryland. Adamson has been employed at the Johnson Space Center since 1980. During the operational flight test phase of the shuttle program he served as aerodynamics officer in Mission Control. Upon completion of the four operational test flights, he became guidance navigation and control officer for STS missions 5 through 41-C. He also worked as research pilot for the JSC aircraft operations division. Adamson was selected as an astronaut candidate in May 1984 and was originally assigned to mission 61-N, which eventually became STS-28.

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #10 on: 09/04/2012 03:25 pm »

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #11 on: 09/04/2012 03:26 pm »
Mission Specialist Mark Neil Brown, Major USAF, was born November 18, 1951, in Valparaiso, Indiana. He’s six feet tall and weighs 180 pounds. Brown received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1973 and a Master of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1980. He received his pilot wings at Laughlin AFB in 1974 and was assigned to the 87th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Sawyer AFB, Michigan. In 1979 Brown was transferred to the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Paterson AFB, Ohio. He has been employed at Johnson Space Center since 1980 and was assigned as an engineer in the flight activities section. Brown participated in the development of contingency procedures for use aboard the shuttle. Brown was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in May 1984 and was assigned to mission 61-N in November 1985. He was involved in the post-Challenger SRB redesign efforts while waiting for this flight, now called STS-28.

(Countdown, August 1989 - edited)

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #12 on: 09/04/2012 03:28 pm »

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #13 on: 09/04/2012 03:29 pm »
Counting heads aboard the shuttle… 

NASA and the Air Force had put their heads together in order to study the effects of space radiation. Unknown to the public at the time, a human skull filled with radiation detectors was sent up aboard Columbia STS-28. The story was broken much later by Aviation Week – in early 1990, when the so-called “phantom head” went up again aboard Atlantis STS-36. It was located on the right-hand side of the middeck near the foot of an astronaut’s sleeping bag.

The skull weighed about 11 pounds and was the most accurate way of determining the amount of radiation which penetrated the head. It had been donated by an anonymous person who gave their body to science, and the person’s identification remained unknown. Due to the size of the skull, it was believed to be a female’s. Information gathered from the phantom head was to give researchers a better idea of how to plan missions involving the Space Station and longer visits to the Moon or Mars.

The $1,500 skull had been sliced into sections an inch thick, so medical researchers at Johnson Space Center could install more than 100 radiation detectors. Then it had been reassembled and covered with plastic that was affected by radiation much like human skin. On each of the two missions, STS-28 and later STS-36, the skull was to be carried subsequently into higher orbits to gain more information about space radiation. STS-28 went up to a 57-degree-inclination orbit, while during STS-36 Atlantis would reach a 62-degree inclination. At a higher inclination, astronauts become exposed to more radiation. Radiation levels also change with altitude as well as inclination to the equator – so the skull was to make its third flight on Discovery STS-31, the Hubble deployment mission, which would take it to a shuttle record altitude of 330 nautical miles. (Countdown, April 1990 – edited)
« Last Edit: 09/04/2012 03:34 pm by Ares67 »

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #14 on: 09/04/2012 03:33 pm »
The usual rumors

When the Washington Post revealed the cargo of the first “secret” military shuttle flight in 1985, then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger termed it offering “aid and comfort to the enemy.” The fourth military flight is about to take off – perhaps as soon as August 7 or 8 – and speculation as to its cargo runs just as high as ever. The military must be resigned to it, for no one is paying much attention, let alone charging treason.

STS-28, the 30th flight of the shuttle and eighth of Columbia, will occur at about 7:45 a.m. EDT. The launch window extends two and a half hours. The shuttle will be placed in a high-inclination orbit, inclined 57 degrees to the equator. The flight will deploy a Lacrosse satellite, a duplication of the one orbited by STS-27 in December, according to speculation by some sources. Two of the $500-million satellites – which use a large, 100-foot radar antenna to probe the U.S.S.R. for missile treaty violations – were built- Yet the trade publication Aviation Week, in a mysterious article in June, lists the exact weight of the satellite as 20,600 lbs. The article did not state the name or purpose of the secret satellite, but the weight would only be about half that of a Lacrosse radar satellite. The weight also would be less than that of a $500-million Keyhole KH-12 imaging spy satellite – another rumored cargo.

No matter what it is, the satellite will be deployed on orbit five, about six hours after launch, according to Aviation Week. A second small satellite, weighing 275 lbs., will be spring ejected on orbit 18 about 26 hours into the mission, the publication says. Eight other experiments aboard the flight are said to include a contamination monitor, radiation monitor and a low-altitude heavy ion detector. As on previous open shuttle flights, thruster burns by Columbia will be observed by the Air Force optical tracking site at Maui, Hawaii, as part of Strategic Defense Initiative efforts to develop means of identifying rocket plumes.

STS-28, as with previous military missions, will probably fly a four-day flight. An exact landing time will not be announced until 24 hours before the event. No matter the time, the landing site cannot be kept secret – as with all present shuttle flights, it will occur at Edwards Air Force Base. No matter the mission, the flight of Columbia will go down as a rarity. The military is rapidly halting use of the shuttle. STS-28 will enter the books as one of only a handful of “secret” shuttle missions. (Countdown, August 1989)


And this time they got it all totally wrong…

Even the experienced space experts got it totally wrong this time and so the real nature of Columbia’s payload remained a secret. Several weeks after mission STS-28, because everybody thought it was a reconnaissance satellite, observers on the ground were speculating if something had gone wrong when they watched the satellite flash in regular intervals – suggesting it had spun out of control:


TOP-SECRET U.S. SATELLITE MAY BE TUMBLING IN ORBIT
A top-secret spy satellite carried into space aboard the shuttle Columbia in August malfunctioned shortly after it was released from the space plane and may be tumbling in orbit, an aerospace magazine reported. Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine reported in its Oct. 9, 1989 issue that sources said "the problems with the reconnaissance spacecraft have been corrected." A second intelligence community source agreed that the payload is functioning normally, the magazine said.

But the health of the costly satellite, reportedly an advanced imaging reconnaissance spy craft, remains uncertain because of reports from amateur astronomers and others that indicate the spacecraft is tumbling in space. Time-exposure photographs of the satellite taken from the ground for Aviation Week show a periodic brightening and dimming that is "characteristic of a payload rotating out of control and reflecting the sun as it tumbles," the magazine said. Astronomers in seven countries have been observing the apparent tumbling motion since mid-August, according to Aviation Week. Columbia, with five astronauts on board, was launched Aug. 8 on a classified military mission. The goal of the flight was the deployment of the reconnaissance satellite, but, as usual with such missions, neither NASA nor the Air Force would comment on the nature of the payload or its health. (Deseret News, Oct. 7, 1989)


The unusual behavior of the “reconnaissance” satellite actually was absolutely normal for a spin-stabilized communications platform. And indeed it was later revealed that Columbia had launched the first Satellite Data System SDS-2 communications relay satellite into a high-inclination orbit, which allowed it to cover the Polar Regions. SDS-2 was based on the cylindrical Leasat/Syncom-design – measuring 14 feet in diameter and 9.5 feet in length, weighing 5,150 pounds when fully fueled. The satellite was equipped with two 15-foot-diameter dish antennas, one 6.6-foot-diameter dish, and two smaller antennas for different uplink and downlink functions. SDS-2 was also said to have featured an infrared sensor for the detection of ballistic missile launches.


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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #15 on: 09/04/2012 03:35 pm »
In his January 2006 interview for the JSC Oral History Project Columbia Pilot Dick Richards explained some of the challenges associated with flying a classified mission: “Keeping it classified and not getting into trouble, yeah. We had some weird stuff we had to do as far as what we could tell our wife, what we couldn’t. Some of it’s pretty complicated. I usually approach those things, ‘Well I’ll do what makes sense.’ But when I got into it, this thing was so classified that we had to do things that were, in my mind, crazy. But I knew I had to do them, so it was just a question of remembering and trying to do that. That was the hardest thing, was to make sure that you didn’t inadvertently have a security leak or a security breakdown there that you could not only jeopardize your mission and your payload, but also yourself personally.”

According to Ben Evans (“Space Shuttle Columbia,” 2005) Mission Specialist Dave Leestma described preparations for this top-secret mission as unusual and very cloak-and-dagger in nature: “Sometimes you had to disguise where you were going! You’d file a flight plan in a T-38 from one place and go somewhere else, to try to not leave a trail for where you were going or what you were doing, who was sponsor of this payload or what its capabilities were or what it was going to do. You had to be careful all the time of what you were saying.”

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #16 on: 09/04/2012 03:40 pm »
Hail Columbia – again!

“I flew on Columbia a long time ago and it was a great machine. It’ll be a great machine again.”

STS-28 Commander Brewster Shaw


As Columbia sits perched on her launch pad like a sharp-beaked bird of prey poised for a secret military mission, no one could guess that she once was a feeble dodo bird marked for extinction. Columbia, the first orbiting shuttle, is about to do something unusual for her – flying in space. In the ten years since she was completed, she has spent about seven in the hangar, out of the normal flight flow, and only three on the flight line. She has made only one flight in the past five and a half years.

Columbia’s relegation to the hangar can be attributed to its seniority, as NASA taxed itself to bring the oldest orbiter onto par with its younger siblings, and to the delays and modifications caused by the Challenger accident. However, Columbia’s reputation as a hangar queen was first earned a decade ago when she was the newest orbiter in a fleet of one. When Columbia rode into Kennedy Space Center atop her 747 carrier aircraft on March 24, 1979, the space plane appeared like a molting bird, with bare patches speckling its tiled surface. About 7,000 of over 31,000 ceramic heat protection tiles remained to be bonded to the bird’s skin. Despite this task, launch was scheduled for November 9 of the same year.

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #17 on: 09/04/2012 03:43 pm »
That soon changed as structural analysis revealed a flaw in NASA’s thinking about the tiles. Early analysis had considered the tiles, which range from one to six square inches, as a mere covering for the shuttle’s aluminum skin and grouped large portions of the tiles together for stress predictions. In reality, each tile had to be considered as its own separate structure – and when the loads were calculated, the glue-like bonding holding them in place was determined not to be strong enough. Each tile had to be individually pull tested.

Columbia remained a mottled hangar queen at the Kennedy Space Center as testing and analysis revealed that an increasing number of tiles needed “densification.” In densification, the tile was removed and a stronger skin layer impregnated on its underside, providing two-to-three times the bonding strength. Columbia sat in the hangar for a year and a half as the modification work painstakingly inched along its surface. Finally on December 29, 1980, Columbia was rolled to the pad. The first shuttle launch occurred at 7 a.m. EDT on April 12, 1981. Although Columbia’s crew – John Young and Robert Crippen – enjoyed their moment in the spotlight, the new star of the manned space program was the orbiter itself, greeted by cheers of “Hail, Columbia.” With the shuttle, the names of the orbiters would be remembered longer than the names of the astronauts.

NASA had hoped to launch next on September 30, 1981, but the orbiter required replacement of 1,000 tiles. Then on September 23, the first of the unfortunate string of problems occurred. During fueling of the shuttle’s attitude control thruster tanks, nitrogen tetroxide spilled onto the thermal protection tiles, loosening 380 of them. The tiles had to be rebounded to the craft and again the flight was delayed. Contamination of lubricating oil in the hydraulic power system caused a further delay as a launch attempt on November 4, 1981, ground to a halt at the T-31 second point. Finally, on November 12, seven months from its first launch, Columbia rose to become the first used spacecraft to fly in space.

Offline Ares67

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #18 on: 09/04/2012 03:46 pm »
Columbia’s most-active period was underway. She flew two more increasingly complex test flights, the final one launching on the Fourth of July, 1982. Then the orbiter made the first “operational” shuttle flight in November of the same year, deploying two communications satellites. – Never again would an orbiter fly five straight missions. When Columbia returned from that flight on November 16, she began a year-long period of modification in preparation for the first flight of Spacelab, the European-built laboratory carried in the shuttle’s payload bay. Columbia’s main engines were replaced with three new ones (2011, 2018 and 2019), capable of operating at 104 percent thrust. Columbia’s elevon ablators were replaced with High-temperature Reusable Surface Insulation tiles. The wings and mid-fuselage received added thermal protection by the densification of HRSI tiles on their surfaces. The complete aft flight deck distribution panel was redesigned to relocate existing wiring and connectors to be compatible with the Standard Mixed Cargo Harness. Other modifications included installation of the cabin air system to provide oxygen flow for a seven-member crew.

Among the specific modifications relating to STS-9/Spacelab were the addition of an airlock and tunnel adapter to permit the crew to transfer between the pressurized orbiter crew module and the Spacelab 1 laboratory module; installation of additional crew seats on the middeck (two for payload specialists and one for a mission specialist); addition of provisions for communications, emergency oxygen, three bunk bed sleeping stations and sleeping bags and the inclusion of extra locker and storage space to accommodate a six-man crew. A galley and personal hygiene station on the middeck to serve as an eating and food storage area was also added. A new Ku-band antenna required for transmitting real-time Spacelab 1 data to Houston using the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite system was installed. Two more sets of oxygen/hydrogen tanks used by the electricity-producing fuel cells were added to the three sets normally flown. The tanks gave Columbia the capability to conduct the longest flight of the shuttle program.

After the long layoff, during which the Challenger had taken away Columbia’s spotlight by flying three near-perfect missions, the veteran Columbia made her second debut at 11:00 a.m. EST November 28, 1983, to  begin a ten-day mission that covered more than four million miles on 166 orbits. Columbia’s return to space during STS-9 took longer than even the planned record-breaking ten days. Landing was delayed for more than seven hours as vital systems began failing. First, General Purpose Computer 1 failed, followed by GPC 2. After analyzing the situation and troubleshooting the computers, it was determined that GPC 1 could not be restarted. GPC 2 was brought back online only 40 minutes after failure. If the computer problems were not bad enough, an Inertial Measurement Unit used to determine the shuttle’s location in space, broke down. Ground controllers had to bring Columbia back as soon as possible. At 3:47 p.m. PST December 8, 1983, on the last daylight opportunity for an Edwards landing, the failure-stricken Columbia touched down – just in time as GPC 2 failed again. Problems were not over yet. Shortly thereafter, a small fire between Auxiliary Power Unit 1 and 2 knocked out both units, which power the craft’s hydraulic systems.

Columbia appeared an aging fighter, apparently past its prime. At this point, the orbiter nearly was retired permanently. As a means of alleviating a parts shortage, some shuttle managers wanted to strip Columbia, virtually gutting the spacecraft. James Beggs, NASA administrator, realized that once Columbia was stripped, she probably would never fly again. He ordered the space plane maintained until a period of major modification could begin. Columbia once again was destined for a long sit in a hangar. This time, the modifications would be conducted at the Palmdale, California, assembly facility of Rockwell International, builder of the shuttle fleet. Columbia was flown to California on January 27, 1984.

The improvements included everything from structural strengthening (especially in the wings and cargo bay) to the installation of a heads-up display – standard equipment on the newer shuttles. NASA also took the down time of Columbia to install a few extra experimental instruments on the orbiter. Among the data gathering instrumentation installed on Columbia was an infrared-sensing pod designed to perform the Shuttle Infrared Leeside Temperature Sensing (SILTS) experiment designed to gather shuttle data in the orbiter’s operational environment. The pod, located atop Columbia’s vertical stabilizer, contained an infrared camera, a control and data module, a cooling system for the camera and its two viewing ports in the front end of the pod. Columbia’s nose was also remodeled to include 14 additional air data ports to provide experimenters with data collection beginning at 56 miles during reentry. Last but not least, a mass spectrometer instrument was placed in Columbia’s nose-wheel well to record atmospheric molecular data during reentry.

By all outward appearances the ship was the same black and white craft that last launched November 28, 1983, but more than 250 modifications made the old Columbia and the new Columbia about the same as O’Henry and Henry Aaron. When Columbia returned to the launch pad, she was scheduled to launch December 18, 1985. By the time the orbiter made its third debut on January 12, 1986, its reputation for remaining grounded had grown once more. A record seven delay from December 18, 1985, plagued the eldest shuttle as she waited for lift-off. STS 61-C was a record breaker in difficulty for everyone involved. When Columbia finally lifted off, the crew had experienced four launch scrubs – another record – but the fifth entry into the Queen was a charm. Columbia lifted off at 6:55 a.m. EST, in the predawn hours, offering viewers a royal spectacle of light and color unmatched by any shuttle launch to date. When Columbia landed on January 18, 1986, at 5:59 a.m. PST, no one could have guessed that she had just made her only flight for a period of over five years. The Challenger accident was only ten days away.

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Re: Columbia STS-28 – Called Back to Duty
« Reply #19 on: 09/04/2012 03:50 pm »
Following Challenger, over 200 modifications were deemed needed for the entire shuttle fleet. Discovery, the first shuttle to return to flight, gained top priority. Then in turn, Atlantis received NASA’s focus. Columbia, like a sad orphan, received little attention. She was shuffled from storage in the Vehicle Assembly Building, where little modification could be done, to the new shuttle hangar – where full processing still could not be done. As 1989 opened, some experts predicted Columbia would not fly this year. NASA resolutely focused priorities on returning all remaining orbiters to flight. In addition to 253 post-Challenger modifications, Columbia molted her skin once more, with 2,350 tiles being replace of rebounded. Tiles on parts of the upper surfaces were replaced by the more-advanced flexible blankets. Five miles of wiring were also replaced.

A month later than planned at the start of the year, Columbia is ready for her fourth debut. Instead of the insides of hangars, Columbia will taste more of orbit than in its first decade. Because her additional consumables tanks allow longer flights, a majority of the coming Spacelab flights will be conducted using Columbia. These flights will develop and test many of the experiments to be flown on the Space Station. Ironically, the oldest orbiter will have a major role to play in NASA’s Space Station drive toward the 21st Century. – It’s an orbiter with a future. (Countdown, August 1989 – edited)

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