Space Shuttle Endeavor’s first flight, a masterpiece of imagination and craftsmanship

Following the dramatic loss of the Challenger on January 28, 1986, the American shuttle fleet was reduced to Columbia, Discovery, and Atlantis. In the early 1980’s, these were declared “all-purpose” machines, capable of carrying satellites or laboratories with their impressive hold (with a capacity of about 30 tons), but they also acted as a launch pad or a launch pad. Orbital station at a launch rate, it was expected, 15 days. However, those responsible for the program quickly realize that the complexity of the machines will never allow such speeds, especially after the Challenger drama.

A new shuttle

In the meantime, it was decided on July 31, 1987, to build a new shuttle, the OV 105 (Orbiter Vehicle) “Endeavor”, at a cost of 1. 1.3 billion, in keeping with the promises and agreements. To go as fast as possible, spare parts from the Discovery and Atlantis shuttles are even used. As the OV 105 is named, it is named in memory of the British ship HMS Endeavor, used by James Cook, a famous explorer who crossed the South Pacific Ocean in 1768. Thus, the spirit of exploration continues through the NASA shuttle, as seen elsewhere in the first mission sign.

The Endeavor retains the same features as the other shuttles, during takeoff, a large outer tank under the “belly” and two booster rockets attached to the larger tank remain stationary. Note that the assembly then behaves like a rocket when taking off and as a (bad) glider for the shuttle when returning. Total mass 116,277 kg, Endeavor about 37 m long, 29 m wide and 17 m high. Although the general design, like other shuttles, dates back to the 1970s, the new Orbiter benefited from numerous changes with modern equipment, thus improving performance (electrical connections, avionic systems, navigation systems, etc.). In July 1990, the final assembly was completed, and in May 1991, Endeavor was delivered to NASA. From April 1992, the shuttle was ready for its first flight.

STS 49 Mission

Endeavor’s first mission (STS 49), the 47th of a space shuttle, promises to be particularly ambitious and original, joining mainly to solve the problem of the telecommunications satellite Intelsat 603 (or VI F-3). Launched by a Titan 3 on March 14, 1990, the satellite could not detach from the top layer of the rocket; Its apogee engine (to reach the target geostationary orbit) could not be fired and jetty was done. In the meantime, the satellite has been placed in a temporary orbit.

On May 7, 1992, Endeavor successfully embarked on a voyage with a crew consisting almost exclusively of experienced soldiers on board: Commander Daniel Brandenstein (4th Flight), Kevin Chilton (1st Flight), Pierre Thut (2nd Flight), Katherine Thornton (2nd Flight). Flight), Richard Hibb (Vol. 2), Thomas Ackers (Vol. 2) and Bruce Melanick (Vol. 2). Once in orbit, the shuttle started following Intelsat 603, following media alert after the incident. As a result, The world May 9 Title: “The fifth and final model of the American spacecraft. Shuttle Endeavor has successfully completed its first launch.. The reunion with Intelsat took place on the third day. May 10-11 and 11-12 (lasting 3h43 and 5h30, respectively) are two outbound trips by Thuot and Hieb. But, in order to be successful in the operation, a third outing on 13-14 was proved necessary under the supervision of Brandenstein, who simultaneously controlled, with the intervention of a third astronaut (size), effort and long term situation (8:29 am). Because the Orbiter satellite is the size of a van, astronauts fear it will hit and damage the shuttle. At the endThe astronauts capture the satellite, gently bring it into hold, place a Perigee engine in it, gently pull it out of the hold so that it can finally return to orbit (and work until January 2013).

About the presence of humans in space

NASA has undoubtedly just done a great job, not keeping the media at bay. As a result, The world May 15 Title: “The American Shuttle is an achievement of Endeavor. The astronauts rescued the Intelsat-6 satellite “empty handed” ; On the same day, Release Underline “Mission Successful” With a beautiful “Help” From three astronauts. So there is no doubt about it “A true masterpiece of imagination and spatial tinkering”As said The world. Do it yourself? Unable to catch the satellite as planned, a third astronaut was sent so that together, three people could hold the satellite by hand (including leather gloves) and then place a fixing bar on the satellite and take it to the shuttle. Outside of the “Do It Yourself” operation, the operation rekindled controversy over the presence and role of humans in low orbit, as testified by French astronaut Michel Tognini: “Then how can we say that the presence of man in space is not necessary and that he can be replaced by a robot at any time? A (World, 15 May).

The mission is over

As soon as the main operation was completed, the astronauts performed a few science experiments (crystal growth, ultraviolet imaging, etc.), as well as a fourth spacewalk. The latter, led by Thornton and Aarks, aims to establish a structure that would allow assembly in view of future orbital stations (Independence Project, then ISS).

After completing 141 orbits at an altitude of 361 km in 8 days and 21 hours, Endeavor returned to Earth on May 16 from D-Orbit. The spacecraft and its crew have thus brilliantly succeeded in their mission, achieving a number of firsts, including the number of outbound departures on a flight, the use of a stabilizer parachute during a three-way departure or landing.

Some references

A book : Go into spacePierce Bijoni, Zenith Press, 2011

Press kit NASA’s STS 49 MissionMay 1992

A video On The first flight of the space shuttle Endeavor Of May 1992.

Philippe Varnoteaux is a doctor of history, an expert on the beginnings of space exploration in France, and the author of several reference works.

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