Liftoff at 7:00 a.m. EST was normal but, during the first-stage (S-IC) boost phase, oscillations and abrupt measurement changes were observed. During the second-stage (S-II) boost phase, two of the J-2 engines shut down early and the remaining three were extended approximately one minute to compensate. The third stage (S-IVB) firing was also longer than planned and at termination of thrust the orbit was 177.7 x 362.9 kilometers rather than the 160.9-kilometer near-circular orbit planned. The attempt to reignite the S-IVB engine for the translunar injection was unsuccessful. Reentry speed was 10 kilometers per second rather than the planned 11.1, and the spacecraft landed 90.7 kilometers uprange of the targeted landing point.
The most significant spacecraft anomaly occurred at about 2 minutes 13 seconds after liftoff, when abrupt changes were indicated by strain, vibration, and acceleration measurements in the S-IVB, instrument unit, adapter, lunar module test article, and CSM. Apparently oscillations induced by the launch vehicle exceeded the spacecraft design criteria.
The second-stage (S-II) burn was normal until about 4 minutes 38 seconds after liftoff; then difficulties were recorded. Engine 2 cutoff was recorded about 6 minutes 53 seconds into the flight and engine 3 cutoff less than 3 seconds later. The remaining second-stage engines shut down at 9 minutes 36 seconds - 58 seconds later than planned.
The S-IVB engine during its first burn, which was normal, operated 29 seconds longer than programmed. After two revolutions in a parking orbit, during which the systems were checked, operational tests performed, and several attitude maneuvers made, preparations were completed for the S-IVB engine restart. The firing was scheduled to occur on the Cape Kennedy pass at the end of the second revolution, but could not be accomplished. A ground command was sent to the CSM to carry out a planned alternate mission, and the CSM separated from the S-IVB stage.
A service propulsion system (SPS) engine firing sequence resulted in a 442-second burn and an accompanying free-return orbit of 22,259.1 x 33.3 kilometers. Since the SPS was used to attain the desired high apogee, there was insufficient propellant left to gain the high-velocity increase desired for the entry. For this reason, a complete firing sequence was performed except that the thrust was inhibited.
Parachute deployment was normal and the spacecraft landed about 9 hours 50 minutes after liftoff, in the mid-Pacific, 90.7 kilometers uprange from the predicted landing area (27.40 N 157.59 W). A normal retrieval was made by the U.S.S. Okinawa, with waves of 2.1 to 2.4 meters.
The spacecraft was in good condition, including the unified crew hatch, flown for the first time. Charring of the thermal protection was about the same as that experienced on the Apollo 4 spacecraft (CM 017).
Of the five primary objectives, three - demonstrating separation of launch vehicle stages, performance of the emergency detection system (EDS) in a close-loop mode, and mission support facilities and operations - were achieved. Only partially achieved were the objectives of confirming structure and thermal integrity, compatibility of launch vehicle and spacecraft, and launch loads and dynamic characteristics; and of verifying operation of launch vehicle propulsion, guidance and control, and electrical systems. Apollo 6, therefore, was officially judged in December as "not a success in accordance with . . . NASA mission objectives."
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.
This included conducting a 30-min OBT (Onboard Training) procedures review for Docked ATV Operations,
Completing a one-hour leak check of the SM PrK (Service Module Transfer Compartment)/ATV vestibule interface,
Preparing the necessary equipment for the first ingress (including GSC (Grab Sample Container), IPD-CO air sampler for CO (Carbon Monoxide), AK-1M air sampler, a manual sampling pump, goggles, a dusk mask, an A-2 air scrubber filter, etc.)
Donning the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) i.e.,safety goggles, dust mask) (keeping PPE on until after ATV closeout operations and egress),
Opening the hatches for partial ingress (~6:20am EDT),
Installing the QD BZV (quick disconnect screw clamps) of the SSVP docking & internal transfer mechanism to rigidize the coupling,
Taking copious air samples from the ATV interior, and
Starting the air scrubber, equipped with an FPP electronic/EMI interference filter, to run for about 8h 20m with hatches closed.
For the second ingress, scheduled tomorrow (Saturday, 4/5, at ~4:00am EDT), the air scrubbing in the ATV will make the PPE unnecessary. ATV1 will then be readily accessible to the crew for nominal operations. Also scheduled for tomorrow is an ATV thruster test. Additional Details: ISS On-Orbit Status 04/04/08.