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Part of STS
First Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) mission. Orbiter recalled to earth after three days of flight when one of three fuel cells failed. Mission reflown as STS-94.

AKA: Columbia;MSL-1. Launched: 1997-04-04. Returned: 1997-04-08. Number crew: 7 . Duration: 3.97 days.

The launch was postponed for a day to replace some insulation around a water coolant line in Columbia's payload bay. Liftoff was further delayed 20 minutes due to anomalous oxygen readings in the orbiter's payload bay. STS-83 was cut short due to a problem with one of the three fuel cells that provide electricity and water to Columbia (flight rules required that all three must be operating). At 14:30 GMT on April 6 the crew were ordered to begin a Minimum Duration Flight (MDF). On April 8 the OMS engines ignited at 17:30 GMT for the deorbit burn, and Columbia landed on Runway 33 at Kennedy Space Center at 18:33 GMT.

With delays in International Space Station construction leaving ample room in the shuttle schedule, NASA made the unique decision to leave the equipment installed in Columbia and refly this mission with the same crew later in 1997 as STS-94.

The launch came at 1920:36 GMT on Apr 4. Solid rocket motors RSRM-59 separated two minutes after launch and the external tank ET-84 was jettisoned at 19:29 GMT, leaving Columbia in an elliptical transfer orbit with an apogee near 300 km. The OMS 2 orbit circularization burn came at 20:00 GMT. Columbia opened its payload bay doors by 21:09 GMT, beginning what was intended as a marathon Spacelab research mission.

Cargo Bay Payloads:

  • MSL-1: The Microgravity Science Laboratory included the first test of the International Space Station's EXPRESS Rack, designed for quick and easy installation of experiment and facility hardware on orbit. The EXPRESS Rack replaced a Spacelab double rack, and special hardware provided the same structural and resource connections the rack will have on Space Station. Two payloads -- the Physics of Hard Spheres experiment and the Astro/Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus experiment -- were flown to check the design, development and adaptation of the EXPRESS Rack hardware. MSL-1 also contained numerous other experiment payloads to test materials and combustion processes in zero gravity.
  • CRYOFD: The Cryogenic Flexible Diode (CRYOFD) heat pipe was a Hitchhiker payload jointly developed and sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and the U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratory in Albuquerque. The payload consisted of the Cryogenic Flexible Diode Heat Pipe (CFDHP) and the American Loop Heat Pipe with Ammonia (ALPHA).
  • OARE: The Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment was a self-calibrating instrument that monitored extremely small accelerations and vibrations experienced during orbit of the Shuttle. OARE could detect accelerations down to one-billionth the acceleration of Earth's gravity -- at a frequency of less than 1 Hertz. The instrument's principal purpose was to determine the orientation of the least acceleration disturbance for the Shuttle orbiter during flight. The Shuttle's flight attitude can then be adjusted to satisfy the needs of any particular experiment.
  • In-Cabin Payloads: SAREX, MSX

    The mission this time went for its full two week duration as the crew conducted the full list of experiments. The deorbit burn was at 0944 GMT following payload bay door closing at around 0700 GMT. Columbia landed on KSC's Runway 33 at 1046:34 GMT on Jul 17.

    Development Test Objectives / Detailed Supplementary Objectives / Risk Mitigation Experiments

  • DTO 255: Wraparound DAP Flight Test Verification
  • DTO 312: External Tank TPS Performance
  • DTO 416: Water Spray Boiler Quick Restart Capability
  • DTO 667: Portable In-Flight Landing Operations Trainer
  • DTO 677: Evaluation of Microbial Capture Device in Microgravity
  • DTO 684: Radiation Measurement in Crew Compartment
  • DTO 805: Crosswind Landing Performance
  • DSO 331: Integration of the Space Shuttle Launch and Entry Suit
  • DSO 487: Immunological Assessment of Crewmembers
  • DSO 493: Monitoring Latent Virus Reactivation and Shedding in Astronauts
  • RME 1330: Wireless Data Acquisition System
  • NASA Official Mission Summary:

    Pad A
    83rd Shuttle mission
    22nd flight OV-102
    Shortened mission
    (3rd due to technical problem)
    36th KSC landing
    James D. Halsell Jr., Commander (3rd Shuttle flight)
    Susan L. Still, Pilot (1st)
    Janice Voss, Payload Commander (3rd)
    Michael L. Gernhardt, Mission Specialist (2nd)
    Donald A. Thomas, Mission Specialist (3rd)
    Roger K. Crouch, Payload Specialist (1st)
    Gregory T. Linteris, Payload Specialist (1st)
    Orbiter Preps (move to):
    OPF - Dec. 7, 1996
    VAB - March 5, 1997
    Pad - March 11, 1997


    April 4, 1997, 2:20:32 p.m. EST. Launch originally set for April 3 delayed 24 hours on April 1 due to a requirement to add additional thermal insulation to a water coolant line in the orbiter's payload bay. Managers determined that the line, which cools various electronics on the orbiter, was not properly insulated and could possibly freeze on-orbit. Liftoff delayed 20 minutes, 32 seconds, due to an orbiter access hatch seal which had to be replaced.


    April 8, 1997, 2:33:11 p.m. EDT, Runway 33, Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Rollout distance: 8,602 feet (2,622 meters) Rollout time: 59 seconds. Mission duration: three days, 23 hours, 12 minutes, 39 seconds. Landed on revolution 64, on the first KSC opportunity for the day.

    Mission Highlights:

    First flight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory-1 (MSL-1) cut short due to concerns about one of three fuel cells, marking only third time in Shuttle program history a mission ended early. (STS- 2, 1981 and STS-44, 1991 were other two times). Fuel cell No. 2 had shown some erratic readings during prelaunch startup, but was cleared to fly after additional checkout and test. Shortly after onorbit operations began, the fuel cell no. 2 substack no. 3 differential voltage began trending upward.

    There are three fuel cells on each orbiter, each containing three substacks made up of two banks of 16 cells. In one substack of fuel cell no. 2, the difference in output voltage between the two banks of cells was increasing. The fuel cells use a reaction of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to generate electricity and produce drinking water. Although one fuel cell produces enough electricity to conduct on-orbit and landing operations, Shuttle flight rules require all three to be functioning well to ensure crew safety and provide sufficient backup capability during reentry and landing.

    When a purge failed to halt the upward trend, the fuel cell was disconnected from the orbiter's power system. Additional purges and other measures failed to correct the anomaly, and around 10 a.m., April 6, the Mission Management Team opted to end the mission early. Fuel cell no. 2 was shut down later that afternoon.

    Crew was able to conduct some science in the MSL-1 Spacelab module despite the early return. Work was performed in the German electromagnetic levitation furnace facility (TEMPUS) on an experiment called Thermophysical Properties of Undercooled Metallic Melts. This experiment studies the amount of undercooling that can be achieved before solidification occurs. Another experiment performed was the Liquid-Phase Sintering II experiment in the Large Isothermal Furnace. This investigation uses heat and pressure to test theories about how the liquefied component bonds with the solid particles of a mixture without reaching the melting point of the new alloy combination.

    Also conducted were two fire-related experiments. The Laminar Soot Processes experiment allowed scientists to observe for the first time the concentration and structure of soot from a fire burning in microgravity. An experiment on the Structure of Flame Balls completed two runs. This experiment is designed to determine under what conditions a stable flameball can exist, and if heat loss is responsible in some way for the stabilization of the flame ball during burning.

    A decision to refly the mission in its entirety was made by the Mission Management Team in the days following Columbia's return. The reflight was first unofficially designated STS-83R and then officially named STS-94.

    More at: STS-83.

    Family: Manned spaceflight. People: Crouch, Gernhardt, Halsell, Kilrain, Linteris, Thomas, Voss, Janice. Country: USA. Spacecraft: Columbia. Projects: STS. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral. Agency: NASA, NASA Houston.
    Photo Gallery

    Credit: www.spacefacts.de

    1997 April 4 - . 19:20 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC39A. Launch Platform: MLP3. LV Family: Shuttle. Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle.
    1997 April 8 - .

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