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Astrophysics Science Division | Sciences and Exploration

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STS-109 Crew Patch(Shuttle Mission: STS-109)
Shuttle: Columbia
Date: March 1 - 12 2002

Servicing Mission 3B was actually the fourth visit to Hubble. NASA split the original Servicing Mission 3 into two parts and conducted 3A in December of 1999. During SM3B a new science instrument will be installed: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). Several other activities were accomplished as well over a 12-day mission with 5 spacewalks.

ACS Artists Conception
ACS Installation:
With its wide field of view, superb image quality, and exquisite sensitivity, Hubble's newest science instrument, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) will have 10 times more discovery power than the camera it replaces. In other words, ACS can produce 10 times as many science results in the same amount of time.
(click for larger picture)

ASC sees in wavelengths ranging from visible to far ultraviolet. It is actually a team of three different cameras with specialized capabilities. The high resolution camera will take extremely detailed pictures of the inner regions of galaxies and search neighboring stars for planets and planets-to-be. The solar blind camera blocks visible light to enhance ultraviolet sensitivity. Among other things, it will be used to study weather on planets in our own solar system. With a field of view twice the size of Hubble's current surveyor, ACS's wide field camera will conduct new surveys of the universe. Astronomers will use it to study the nature and distribution of galaxies in order to understand how our universe evolved. (click for diagram of parts)

Solar Array 3 (SA3) Installation:
Four large flexible solar array (SA) panels (wings) provide power to the observatory.

During SM1, the original arrays were replaced by SA2 and have powered Hubble for over 8 years. Radiation and debris take their toll on sensitive electronics, which will be replaced to ensure uninterrupted service for the remainder of the mission.

The new solar arrays (SA3) are rigid arrays, which do not roll up and therefore are more robust. Hubble gets a brand new look with its latest set of solar wings. Although one-third smaller than the first two pairs, the power increase was between 20 and 30 percent. They are less susceptible to extreme temperatures and their smaller-sized will reduce the effects of atmospheric drag on the spacecraft. (see dimensions of solar panel array)

Hubbles New Solar Panels Artists Conception
Hubbles New Solar Panels Artists Conception

Power Control Unit (PCU):
As Hubble's power switching station, the PCU controls and distributes electricity from the solar arrays and batteries to other parts of the telescope. Replacing the original PCU, which had been on the job for 11 years, required Hubble to be completely powered down for the first time since its launch in 1990. Hubble's new PCU will allow astronomers to take full advantage of extra power generated by the new solar arrays.

NICMOS Cryocooler (NCC) Installation:
Astronauts retrofitted an existing but dormant instrument called the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) with a new, experimental cooling system to return it to active duty. NICMOS was placed on Hubble in 1997 but became inactive two years later, after depleting the ice it needed to cool its infrared detectors. By fitting NICMOS with the experimental cryogenic system, NASA hopes to re-cool the detectors to -334°F (-203°C or 70 K) revive its infrared vision, and extend its life by several years.

The super-quiet cooler uses ultra-high speed microturbines, the fastest of which spins at over 200,000 rpm (over 50 times the maximum speed of a typical car engine). Hubble's engineering team successfully demonstrated this technology in 1998 aboard STS-95 in the first on-orbit test of a high-performance, high-efficiency, mechanical cryocooler.
CLICK HERE for a special look at the making of NCS.

NICMOS Cryocooler

STS-109 Crew Info: NASA Astronaut Bios
Four astronauts trained for five scheduled spacewalks to upgrade and service the Hubble Space Telescope during the STS-109 mission in early 2002. Three veteran astronauts, John M.Grunsfeld, James H. Newman, and Richard M. Linnehan, were joined by Michael J. Massimino, who will be making his first space flight.

Grunsfeld had flown three times, STS-67 in 1995, STS-81 in 1997, and STS-103 in 1999 when he performed two spacewalks to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Newman, veteran of three space flights, STS-51 in 1993, STS-69 in 1995, and STS-88 in 1998, had conducted four previous spacewalks. Linnehan had flown on STS-78 in 1996 and STS-90 in 1998. Massimino is a member of the 1996 astronaut class.

Scott Altman, (Cmdr., USN), a two-time shuttle veteran, commanded the STS-109 mission. He was joined on the flight deck by pilot Duane Carey, (Lt. Col., USAF), making his first space flight, and flight engineer Nancy Currie (Lt. Col, USA, Ph.D.). Currie had three previous space flights to her credit.

SM3B Website:
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SM3B Media Reference Guide:
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Fact Sheets:
+ ACS Instrument
+ NICMOS Instrument
+ STIS Instrument
+ Reboost

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STS-109 Crew (left to right): Michael J. Massimino, Richard M. Linnehan, Duane G. Carey, Scott D. Altman, Nancy J. Currie, John M. Grunsfeld, James H. Newman
STS-109 Crew