Following deployment from Columbia’s payload bay early this morning, checkouts of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory continue with telescope managers reporting that activation and operation are going well.
Chandra was deployed from Columbia a little more than seven hours into the flight at 6:47 a.m. CDT. Thanks to a pair of burns by its inertial upper stage (IUS), the third of NASA’s four great observatories is now on its way to an elliptical orbit that will support five years of observations into the X-ray mysteries of the universe.
"We were extremely confident in the IUS system in placing Chandra in it's orbit," said NASA IUS Mission Director Representative Rob Kelso. "In addition, this mission culminated in more than three years of training for the IUS flight team at the USAF Onizuka Air Station. We couldn't be more pleased with the success of the IUS and being able to start this important observatory on it's way."
Following an eight hour sleep period, Columbia’s five member crew -- Commander Eileen Collins, Pilot Jeff Ashby and Mission Specialists Cady Coleman, Steve Hawley and Michel Tognini of the French Space Agency (CNES) -- were awakened at 6:31 p.m. CDT to begin their second day in space.
The main focus of the crew’s Flight Day 2 activities will be in activating the secondary payloads and experiments being carried on the flight. Among those efforts will be the set up and first observations using the Southwest Ultraviolet Imaging System (SWUIS) that operates from inside the shuttle cabin. SWUIS is used to image planets and other solar system bodies in order to explore their atmospheres and surfaces in the ultraviolet (UV) region of the spectrum, which astronomers value for its diagnostic power. SWUIS, making its second flight on STS-93, will obtain ultraviolet imagery of an array of planetary and astrophysical targets. The specific targets that SWUIS will observe include Earth’s moon, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter.
At 4:36 a.m. CDT Saturday morning, Collins and Coleman will take a break to do interviews with network reporters from CBS “Saturday Morning,” the Fox News Network, the NBC “Saturday Today Show” and Cable News Network (CNN). Columbia is flying smoothly on in an orbit 187 x 176 miles above the Earth, circling the planet every 90 minutes with its systems operating in excellent shape.
The next STS-93 status report will be issued at approximately 6 a.m. CDT Saturday.
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