The SPARTAN satellite was captured and returned to its berth this afternoon, successfully completing its two-day solar science mission. SPARTAN Mission Manager Craig Tooley congratulated the crew and flight control team on their performance in executing the mission exactly as planned. Tooley said that 30 percent of the science data already had been linked to the ground and the remainder would be off-loaded at landing. SPARTAN Scientist Dr. Richard Fisher noted that investigators were pleased to have the satellite in orbit near a solar maximum cycle and that its instruments had captured sought-after data on a solar mass ejection event.
The rendezvous began with Commander Curt Brown firing Discovery’s orbital maneuvering engines to drop Discovery’s orbit, accelerating it ahead of the SPARTAN. After closing the distance, Brown and pilot Steve Lindsey maneuvered Discovery in close as Mission Specialist 1 Steve Robinson operated the 50-foot robot arm. With Mission Specialist-2 Scott Parazynski assisting, Robinson directed the arm to a smooth grapple of the satellite at 2:45 p.m. CST. SPARTAN was placed in its berth in Discovery’s cargo bay a short time later.
During the final maneuvers, astronauts tested the Video Guidance Sensor, a component of an automated docking system being prepared for use on the International Space Station. Flight Controllers noted that the system worked as planned.
Spartan will be used again tomorrow for data collection, once again being unberthed from its payload bay cradle for a few hours so that cameras can be pointed at a series of targets on the spacecraft. Those cameras will test the Space Vision System that uses remote camera views to provide a robot arm operator with the ability to view areas that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
While SPARTAN operations captured most of the attention today, other science operations continued aboard Discovery. Payload Specialists Chiaki Mukai and John Glenn, along with Parazynski and European Space Agency Mission Specialist Pedro Duque, continued taking blood samples as part of the Protein Turnover Experiment measuring muscle changes in zero gravity.
Glenn also attached electrodes and a data recorder to himself which record his heart rhythm on orbit, as part of an investigation of heart rate variability during space flight. He also fed bone cell cultures that are part of the OSTEO experiment, an evaluation of bone cell activity under microgravity conditions, and he worked with the Advanced Organic Separations (ADSEP) experiment, which provides the capability to separate and purify biological materials in microgravity..
Glenn and Duque worked with the Astroculture plant-growing experiment and with the MEPS (Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System) that studies the formation of anti-tumor capsules containing two kinds of drugs. Duque collected video data and photograph samples from the Microgravity Glovebox (MGBX) which is used for investigations of colloids, or systems of fine particles suspended in fluid. Mukai continued her work with the Japanese Vestibular Function Experiment Unit (VFEU), which holds two toadfish that are electronically monitored to determine the effect of gravitational changes on the inner ear’s balance system
All systems aboard Discovery continue to operate well. The next STS-95 status report will be issued at approximately 6:30 a.m. Central time Wednesday.
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