Astronauts Winston Scott and Takao Doi checked out their spacesuits aboard Columbia today in preparation for a planned Monday spacewalk while Mission Control developed plans that may allow Scott and Doi to recapture the Spartan satellite by hand during that EVA.
Columbia is now about 38 statute miles behind Spartan, which was released from the shuttle on Friday. After its release, the satellite’s attitude control system failed. When a recapture of the satellite was attempted, it began a slow spin that prevented any further attempts to capture it using the robotic arm. Flight controllers are now evaluating two options for recapturing the satellite by hand during the Monday evening spacewalk. A final decision on any plan to recapture Spartan is not expected until after Shuttle managers meet at 8 a.m. CST Sunday to review all options.
The first option would have Scott and Doi perform a procedure very similar to one they rehearsed prior to the flight in the event a manual recapture of the satellite would be required. Under this plan, Scott and Doi would stand in foot restraints mounted on the Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure to which Spartan is latched in the payload bay during the Shuttle’s launch and landing. Columbia Commander Kevin Kregel would then fly to within reach of the satellite, and Scott and Doi would grasp Spartan and lower it into its normal payload bay latches.
The second option would have Scott stand in a foot restraint mounted to the end of the robotic arm while Doi remains in the payload bay. Kregel would then fly to within reach of the satellite, and Scott would be moved into position to grasp the satellite. Assisted by Doi, he would then lower Spartan into its payload bay latches.
Simulations of both options are being evaluated using a variety of facilities at the Johnson Space Center, including a virtual reality laboratory, two shuttle simulators, and the large swimming pool used for spacewalk training. All of the data gathered during the day will be presented to managers at the Sunday meeting. A press conference is currently planned at 10 a.m. CST Sunday on NASA Television.
For a rendezvous with Spartan Monday evening, Doi and Scott would exit Columbia’s airlock at 6:16 p.m. CST Monday. Columbia would arrive in close proximity to Spartan at about 7 p.m. Monday. The spacewalk would conclude at about 12:16 a.m. CST Tuesday. Under either option, the Spartan retrieval would require only about two hours of the six-hour spacewalk. During the remaining four hours, a majority of the originally planned International Space Station assembly spacewalk tests would still be performed. Flight controllers do not believe it will be possible to test the Aercam Sprint experiment, a prototype free-flying television camera designed for future space station use.
Experiment work aboard Columbia continued today while the plans for the possible Spartan retrieval were evaluated. Kregel and Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla completed three more experiment runs studying the mixing of certain metal alloys in weightlessness using a glovebox facility in the shuttle’s middeck. Ukrainian Payload Specialist Leonid Kadenyuk continued studies of plant growth in weightlessness in the Collaborative Ukrainian Experiment. During the evening, each crew member will have an hour off-duty to help adjust their sleep cycles to match future mission events. The crew also will be interviewed by NBC Nightside and NBC Asian News at 9:31 p.m. CST today. The crew will go to sleep at 3:46 a.m. CST Sunday, two hours later than yesterday, and awaken at 11:46 a.m. CST Sunday.
Columbia is in excellent condition with no systems problems in an orbit with a high point of 175 miles and a low point of 171 miles. The next STS-87 status report will be issued around 6 a.m. Sunday.
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