The shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on time today at 1:19 p.m. Central time initiating a 16-day mission to study the human nervous system.
Columbia received an added assist in its climb to orbit as its Orbital Maneuvering System engines were fired for 102 seconds, beginning just after the twin solid rocket boosters separated from the external tank a little more than two minutes into the launch. The firing of the OMS engines was part of an evaluation test to enhance the performance capability of the Shuttle for carrying heavy payloads to orbit. About 43 minutes after launch, the OMS engines were again fired to adjust the Shuttle’s orbit and place Columbia in a 150 n.m. circular orbit.
The opening of Columbia’s payload bay doors came just before 3 p.m. CDT and Commander Rick Searfoss, Pilot Scott Altman, Mission Specialists Rick Linnehan, Kay Hire, and Dave Williams, and Payload Specialists Jay Buckey and Jim Pawelczyk are now poised to being their work in anticipation of 16 days of scientific investigation. The crew members first efforts will focus on activating systems in the Spacelab module which houses many of the 26 experiments to be conducted during the flight.
The crew is scheduled to begin a planned eight-hour sleep period about midnight.
The next STS-90 status report will be issued at 6 a.m. Central time Saturday.
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