Six astronauts rocketed into space today aboard the Shuttle Discovery to kick off an 11-day mission designed to study the Earth’s ozone layer and to test technology which may be used in the operation of the International Space Station.
Commander Curt Brown, Pilot Kent Rominger, Mission Specialists Jan Davis, Bob Curbeam and Steve Robinson and Canadian Payload Specialist Bjarni Tryggvason blasted off on time at 9:41 a.m. Central time from Launch Pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center after a flawless countdown.
Less than nine minutes later, Discovery had reached its preliminary orbit, which was refined into a circular orbit about 175 miles above the Earth through the firing of the shuttle’s orbital maneuvering system engines.
Once Discovery’s cargo bay doors are opened, the astronauts will begin to activate key systems and experiment hardware. Davis and Robinson plan to activate and checkout Discovery’s 50-foot long robot arm, which will be used this afternoon to grapple and deploy the CRISTA-SPAS satellite. That autonomous satellite is scheduled to be released by robot arm operator Davis at 4:57 p.m. Central time for the start of nine days of free flight from Discovery to study the planet’s ozone layer and other characteristics of the Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite will be retrieved by Discovery’s astronauts on August 16 for its return to Earth.
The astronauts are scheduled to begin an 8 and a half hour sleep period at 8:41 p.m. tonight and will be awakened at 5:11 a.m. Friday for their second day of work on orbit.
All of Discovery’s systems are functioning normally.
The next STS-85 status report will be issued at approximately 6 p.m. Central time.
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