NASA Logo, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Goddard Space Flight Center

Astrophysics Science Division | Sciences and Exploration

This website is kept for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

Skip Navigation
Mission Critical Multi-Media Gallery Hubble News Mission Updates Launch Info

 SM3B News Articles

Newspaper Reprints
Press Releases
Public Affairs Office Link
Florida Today News
Space News - News
Spaceflight Now
Other Online News Sources.
NASA is not responsible for the content
displayed outside of its URL domain.

For full coverage of the 12 Mission Days (Mar 1-12) go to Mission Updates.

Feb 28, 2002
Cold forecast delays shuttle
By Steven Siceloff

astronaut during a previous servicing missonCAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA postponed shuttle Columbia's launch by a day rather than contend with cold weather this morning. The agency will try again at 6:22 a.m. Friday. The weather then is forecast to be 49 degrees at launch time, with an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather.

Temperatures were expected to approach the lower limit for liftoff today at Kennedy Space Center, so shuttle managers announced the delay after the six-man, one-woman crew went to sleep Wednesday afternoon. The astronauts will spend today training for their mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Freezing temperatures were implicated in the shuttle Challenger disaster, although NASA's solid-rocket boosters have been redesigned with heaters to alleviate much of that threat.

Seven astronauts, led by commander Scott Altman, will use the 11-day mission to retrofit the orbiting telescope with a new camera, more efficient solar array wings and a new power system.

Astronauts Duane "Digger" Carey, John Grunsfeld, Nancy Currie, Jim Newman, Rick Linnehan and Mike Massimino will share duties ranging from spacewalks to operating Columbia's robot arm to filming the work.

The mission calls for five straight days of spacewalks, about 33 hours altogether.

With the launch delay, Columbia is to return to KSC at about 4:30 a.m. March 12.

Feb 27, 2002
Hubble awaits Columbia: Shuttle to carry
repair team to telescope early Friday

By Steven Siceloff

Columbia rolls out to the launch site
CAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA will dispatch a team of seven astronauts Friday morning to polish its crown jewel of astronomy, the Hubble Space Telescope.

The orbiting observatory has glimpsed galaxies on the edge of the universe already, but a series of improvements during the mission promise more clarity and more discoveries.

Veteran astronaut Scott Altman leads the crew with rookie pilot Duane Carey. John Grunsfeld, Rick Linnehan, Jim Newman and Mike Massimino will perform five straight days of spacewalks during the 11-day mission. Nancy Currie will maneuver the shuttle's robot arm through several complex procedures.

Cold weather got the best of Columbia today. Shuttle managers decided to delay the Thursday scheduled launch for one day to hold out for better weather Friday. The new launch time is 6:22 a.m. The weather forecast for Friday calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather, and temperatures at least 10 degrees warmer than Thursday.

Cold weather was a culprit in the 1986 Challenger disaster when O-rings sealing the joints of the twin solid rocket boosters hardened, allowing searing flames to leak out and destroy the external tank. It was 36 degrees at liftoff that morning, but dropped well below freezing the night before.

The boosters now carry heaters for the joints, so the concern lies with ice building up on the external tank, NASA Test Director Pete Nickolenko said. Officials fear ice chunks could ding Columbia's vital heat shield tiles during liftoff.

The agency has never scrubbed a shuttle launch solely because of cold weather, Priselac said.

Engineers also are analyzing a wheel bearing on Columbia, Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said. They want to make sure the right tests were performed on the bearings. There is a fear failed bearings could cause the shuttle to skid at landing.

"It tends to not roll very far after you lose the wheel bearing," Dittemore said.

The launch could be the easiest part of the mission for the crew of seven, given the complexity of their job in space.

Upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope requires five spacewalks, a perilous electrical shutdown of the observatory and hours of delicate maneuvers with the robot arm.

NASA launched three previous repair and maintenance flights, but a combination of intricate work and high risk make this mission the most complex ever attempted, NASA officials said.

"I used to think nothing would ever surpass the (first Hubble repair) mission until I had an in-depth review of this mission," said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for Space Science.

Astronauts will add several components to the telescope:
� A state-of-the-art camera 10 to 20 times more powerful than those onboard.
� A smaller set of solar arrays that will provide 20 percent more electricity.
� A control system that will direct electricity throughout the satellite.
� A new guidance wheel to help point the mirror precisely.
� A mechanical cooler to resurrect the telescope's infrared camera that sees different light than other cameras.

"Looking at it as one big project, it's daunting," astronaut Jim Newman said. "We have to break it down into manageable pieces."

While all of the new parts hold promise, the electrical control system wrenches planners and astronauts with worry because it means turning off the telescope completely for the first time in 11 years. If it does not turn back on, astronomers will lose a scientific instrument that made more discoveries than all its predecessors combined.

"It violates a long-standing rule in the space business that if something's working well you don't turn it off and just hope it comes back on," Weiler said. "We fully anticipate that everything will work, but it is something we've never done before."

The electrical unit, which works much like a circuit breaker box in a house, has deteriorated in space and cycles about 15 percent less energy from the electricity-generating solar arrays to the telescope's power-hungry instruments.

"It wouldn't have to get much worse to threaten the ability to do science," said Preston Burch, Hubble project manager.

Replacing it with a new model requires astronauts John Grunsfeld and Rick Linnehan to work with specialized tools on the box and wires that were never designed for such servicing. Most of the telescope's other components were built into modules that can be replaced relatively quickly and easily.

The replacement is scheduled for the third spacewalk of the mission.

"We're going to be sitting on the edge of our seats," Burch said.

Hubble's success during the past 11 years is the main reason for the worry.

The agency spent almost $7 billion on the orbiting telescope since it was planned in the late 1970's. It costs $10 million a month to operate, and every shuttle mission to service it runs at least $500 million before considering the specialized equipment needed.

Burch said the gear for Thursday's flight alone cost $172 million.

Now seen as a bargain, the Hubble was considered a boondoggle during most of its development thanks to technical problems and schedule delays that kept it grounded seven years longer than planned. The label seemed etched in stone when the telescope returned blurry photographs of the cosmos due to a flawed main mirror.

Weiler said he felt like he was in the deepest hole in the desert, and no one was eager to help him find the light.

"We had a tough time digging out of that hole in Death Valley," he said.

Three years later, a group of astronauts fitted the telescope with a set of glasses, and the telescope began living up to its promise.

Regular discoveries erased memories of flawed mirrors and led to more than 3,200 technical papers.

During its 11 years looking out at space, the observatory has taken 420,000 photographs. Its highlights include:
� Measuring the size of the universe and reliably estimating its age.
� Discovering black holes are common, and may exist at the center of every galaxy.
� Analyzing the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system.
� Discovering the universe is accelerating instead of slowing down.
� Finding an enigmatic force called dark energy.

"When people think of space exploration, they tend to think of men on moon walking around exploring it," Grunsfeld said. "Hubble is about exploring the whole rest of the universe from the moon on out."

Friday's launch will mark the return of Columbia, the oldest of NASA's four-shuttle fleet. The spacecraft, which first flew in April 1981, spent months in a Boeing hangar in California undergoing a major overhaul and exhaustive inspections on miles of wiring.

Damaged wires caused a short circuit during Columbia's July 1999 liftoff.

The glitch shut down a computer controlling one of Columbia's three main engines, nearly causing a catastrophe. A back-up computer took over and the launch proceeded safely. The rest of the fleet was grounded several months for wiring inspections on each orbiter in 1999.

While shuttles Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour returned to space duty, Columbia spent extra time in the shop.

The work continued at Kennedy Space Center with more testing and technicians adding the components needed to make the craft space-worthy again.

"The vehicle is in great shape and ready to fly," NASA Test Director Steve Altemus said.

Jan 31, 2002
Crew faces challenges with Hubble
By Steven Siceloff

astronaut during a previous servicing missonCAPE CANAVERAL -- Working on one of the world's most sophisticated satellites while wearing bulky gloves and a spacesuit will never be easy, one of the spacewalkers preparing to service the Hubble Space Telescope said Thursday.

"It's designed to be serviced by astronauts, but there's always surprises," said John Grunsfeld, one of four astronauts who will take turns making five spacewalks to repair some of the telescope's most sensitive components.

Some of the work, such as connecting a new power system, will be akin to plugging a telephone into a wall jack while wearing boxing gloves. They will also install a new camera inside the satellite, recharge a defunct infrared device and replace a faulty reaction wheel that helps point the$2 billion observatory.

Astronauts spent hundreds of hours practicing in a giant swimming pool to simulate working in space, Grunsfeld said. He performed two spacewalks during a December 1999 mission to service the space telescope.

This will be the second flight aboard Columbia for mission commander Scott "Scooter" Altman. It will be his third flight overall.

Rookie Duane "Digger" Carey will pilot Columbia during the first mission of his career. Grunsfeld, Richard Linnehan, James Newman and first-time flyer Michael Massimino will take turns performing five demanding spacewalks.

"I feel like the luckiest rookie astronaut since Alan Bean," Massimino said. "Al Bean got to walk on the moon on his first flight and I get to spacewalk on the Hubble."

Nancy Currie will operate the shuttle's robot arm during critical maneuvers to place the telescope on its work platform in Columbia's cargo bay.

At the launch pad, workers gave Columbia's cargo bay a final cleaning before the specialized pallets and equipment to service the telescope are placed inside.

Jan 28, 2002
Crawler inches Columbia to launch pad
By Steven Siceloff

Columbia rolls out to the launch site
CAPE CANAVERAL -- As shuttle Columbia made its trip to launch pad 39A on Monday, 30 people kept the massive crawler transporter running with the goal of placing the $2 billion shuttle within an eighth of an inch of the target area.

Wide as an interstate and as long as four tractor-trailers, each of Kennedy Space Center's two 6-million pound crawlers combine the low-tech brute force of a tracked vehicle with exquisite precision to deliver the shuttles to their launch pads, all at less than 1 mph. Slowly, it pulverizes river rock to dust as it travels 31/2 and 5 miles to pad 39A and 39B.

These crawlers -- which once bore the massive Saturn 5 rockets of the Apollo era -- still bear the weight of the nation's manned space program. A problem with either or both of the crawlers literally brings the program to a standstill, as it did last week.

"There's only two, and without them you don't have a space program," Vickery said.

Ten United Space Alliance engineers took turns driving Columbia out to the launch pad Monday for its Feb. 28 mission. Technicians and spotters took their places around the machine, giving instructions over walkie-talkies.

The move, called "rollout" in KSC parlance, was delayed several days when the crawler's steering mechanism stuck. Columbia was supposed to rollout last Wednesday. The delay will not set back the launch date, NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham said.

An F-15 jet fighter buzzed through the clouds over the shuttle as it inched down the custom-made crawlerway. NASA's Huey security chopper flew laps close to the ground while an observation plane circled the launch complex.

Crawler drivers can only see straight ahead and to the right because the vehicle blocks the other side and back from view. It's like seeing one tire while driving a car, and steering it solely by keeping that tire near the curb. An advantage is the crawler moves less than 1 mph.

"You think of how many billions of dollars of hardware are on your back and you get a little nervous," said Tom Chabrak, United Space Alliance's lead engineer for the crawler transporters at KSC. "If you try not to have that as your major focus and just drive straight, you won't even know you have a shuttle on top."

Emerging from the Vehicle Assembly Building, Columbia, the external fuel tank and pair of solid booster rockets resembled a tower bolted to an office complex on top of a shopping center. Unlike those structures typically built in place, this one moves.


It takes six hours to roll to the launch pad. An orbiting shuttle makes three trips around the Earth in that amount of time.

"You don't really have the wind blowing through your air at 9/10s of a mile per hour," Vickery said.

Revving up the crawler and driving it as fast as, say, 2 mph is out of the question.

"We'd all love to crank it up a lot faster, but then it becomes a danger aspect," Chabrak said. "If you're up over 1 (mph) and then one of these belts broke and you weren't able to get it stopped in time you could really hurt somebody."

The two driving cabs on each crawler are big enough for two people, but are more reminiscent of a ship's bridge than a car. There's a brake pedal and small red steering wheel and push-button gear box -- forward, neutral and reverse. A dial substitutes for a gas pedal.

The gray interior of the engine room, with its steel grate walkways and two 2,750 horsepower diesel engines, also correspond to Navy craft more than spacecraft. For example, the pumps that steer the treads are the same used to turn battleship turrets.

The engines turn electric generators sending a current to 16 motors that turn the treads. A secondary generator provides power for lights, computers and air-conditioners onboard.

"We're basically a big electric vehicle," Chabrak said.

The diesel muffler beneath the machine is as long as some cars. Chugging diesels and spinning generators make the engine room a miniature purgatory of heat and noise when the machine is running. Some corners of the interior reach 130 degrees, and produce 112 decibels of sound.

Workers are limited to 20 minutes at a time watching over the gauges inside the compartment. Insulated from the heat and noise, technicians sit in front of a bank of touch-screen computers monitoring the crawler's health and keep the launch platform and shuttle level. Hydraulic jacks raise one end of the crawler to keep the shuttle steady as it climbs the 10-degree incline to the launch tower.

There are only eight bolts holding the shuttle to the launch platform, so controllers work to avoid any swaying or tilting.

As they approach the launch pad, drivers turn to a yellow screen with crosshairs etched in it. A laser from the launch pad produces digital crosshairs that drivers use to match with the permanent marks. A perfect alignment leaves the shuttle bolted down for launch while the crawler moves several miles away.

The process is identical to the one the crawlers used in the 1960's moving Saturn 5 moon rockets to the same launch pads the shuttle uses today. The launch pad and mobile launch platforms were modified to handle the shuttles. The crawlers' evolution centered largely on the control room, where modern computers replaced aging systems. Mechanically, the gears, tread cleats and other parts are unchanged from when the machines were constructed at KSC.

In fact, finding parts for the behemoth is the biggest challenge to keeping them working. That problem was evident last week when the crawler broke down and the second was not in condition to take over.

Replacement parts have to be custom-made or the older parts must be repaired to keep the massive machines operating.

Jan 24, 2002
Crawler delay strands Columbia at least two more days
By Steven Siceloff

Columbia peers out of the VABThe space shuttle Columbia sits inside the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday after the crawler, which transports it to the launch pad, developed steering problems. The shuttle, stacked to begin its mission, is stuck in the Vehicle Assembly Building while mechanics try to repair the baseball infield-sized crawler transporter that is supposed to carry Columbia to the launch pad 39A.

The spacecraft has been stranded inside the hangar since Wednesday. NASA and United Space Alliance officials hope to move Columbia, its external tank and booster rockets to the launch pad Saturday morning, but may wait until Monday if the weather looks good, NASA spokesman Bruce Buckingham said.

"If Monday looks like it's going to be great, then they'll go Monday, otherwise they'll go Saturday," he said.

The crawler developed steering problems that locked one of its tread sets out of alignment. Mechanics worked on the machine but could not replace a faulty bearing in time to move the shuttle Thursday. They also are inspecting the vehicle's three other treadsets.

Maintenance work on the second crawler is keeping it from being a replacement. "It's unusual to have crawler problems of this magnitude delaying the shuttle days in a row," Buckingham said. The rollout delay will not set back Columbia's Feb. 28 launch date, Buckingham said.

NASA and USA have six days in their preparation schedule to make up for lost time. The crawlers, built on-site at Kennedy Space Center in the mid-1960's, are the only vehicles large enough to lift a launch-ready shuttle and its platform and carry the 12 million pounds 31/2 miles to an oceanside launch complex.

The move will be Columbia's first to the launch pad since July 1999, when it lofted the Chandra X-ray telescope into space.

This time, the orbiter's mission is to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Jan 10, 2002
Mission reset for Feb. 28

By Steven Siceloff

Reaction Wheel AssemblyCAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA postponed shuttle Columbia's repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope by a week in an anticipated move Thursday, officials said.

The agency's oldest orbiter will wait while engineers prepare a new reaction wheel for the orbiting telescope, Kennedy Space Center spokesman Jack King said. The device is one of four that carefully points the $2 billion observatory at targets light years away.

A brief glitch with one of the wheels alarmed engineers in November because it left the observatory without a reliable backup should another wheel fail.

A sunrise launch is scheduled for 6:52 a.m. Feb. 28.

Managers hoped to launch Columbia on Feb. 21, but the spare wheel would not have been ready. The instrument and its duplicate are wrapping up tests before they will be trucked to Kennedy Space Center and loaded into the orbiter.

Two spacewalkers are expected to take about an hour to remove the questionable mechanism and install a new one. Other missions also may wait.

May 2, 2001
Hubble Telescope to Receive More Upgrades
By Kelly Young

Hubble during the last missionCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - The Hubble Space Telescope has spent a little more than 11 years in Earth's orbit. On paper, its life is more than half over. But scientists say its best days are still ahead.

Astronomers at Tuesday's Space Congress were already gearing up for another mission to upgrade Hubble. The flight of shuttle Columbia, the orbiter's first mission since its own upgrade, is scheduled to lift off no earlier than Nov. 19.

This telescope servicing mission, like the three that preceded it, will add capability to the telescope and extend humanity's reach into the universe.

"It's actually a lot cheaper . . . than to put up new telescopes," said Steve Beckwith, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, the research group that operates Hubble.

The astronauts will add a cooling system to a near-infrared camera that lost its eyesight when it ran out of coolant. The new device, which was tested during John Glenn's return flight in 1998, seeks to restore that vision to look at the distant universe and areas of the universe hidden by dust.

They also will attach a new instrument, called the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is projected to be 10 times more powerful than the current camera for scanning the heavens.

Hubble's next targeted areas will include how galaxies formed in the early universe and how they came to look the way they do.

While abstract concepts such as "dark matter" and "dark energy" intrigue scientists, it's matter as most humans know it that captures public interest.

"Because of the complexity of life that has arisen on Earth, this tiny amount of matter holds a great deal of interest," Beckwith said.

The telescope's successor, the Next Generation Space Telescope is expected to launch as early as 2007. One of its goals will be to look for planets outside our solar system through eclipses.

Already, Hubble is able to tell when 1.5 percent of a star's light is blocked out by a planet passing in front of it. So the future telescope should provide an even clearer image of distant planetary systems, Beckwith said.

March 26, 2001
Final Crew Picked for Hubble Overhaul Mission posted

crew pictureThree astronauts have been named to complete the STS-109 crew already in training for a mission that will feature five spacewalks to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope later this year. Shuttle astronauts will install an advanced camera for surveys, a device to mechanically cool science instruments and new high-power solar arrays.

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

They join the previously assigned crew members -- payload commander John Grunsfeld, James Newman, Richard Linnehan and Michael Massimino.

STS-109 will mark Altman's first flight as commander, having previously flown as pilot on STS-90 in 1998 and STS-106 in 2000. Currie, who brings extensive experience as a flight engineer and robotic arm operator, flew on STS-57 in 1993, STS-70 in 1995 and STS-88 in 1998. A space rookie, Carey was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

Grunsfeld has 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, has conducted four previous spacewalks. Linnehan flew on STS-78 in 1996 and STS-90 in 1998. Massimino is a member of the 1996 astronaut class.


Glossary | FAQ | Links
| Page Last Updated: March 29, 2021 |
Links FAQ Glossary Home