ORFEUS-SPAS-2/Wake Shield Facility-3

KSC Release No. 124-96
October 1996

Materials processing in space, astronomical observations, microgravity research, and spacewalk tests and training will highlight the STS-80 Space Shuttle mission aboard Columbia, the seventh and last Shuttle flight of 1996.

The primary objectives of the 80th Space Shuttle mission are the deployment, operation and retrieval of two scientific satellites which have flown before.

The Orbiting Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer-Shuttle Pallet Satellite-2 (ORFEUS-SPAS-2) will be deployed first to make observations and take measurements of celestial objects that emit most of their light or radiation in the invisible, ultraviolet band of the electromagnetic spectrum. STS-80 will be the second flight of ORFEUS-SPAS, which is a cooperative project of NASA and the German Space Agency (DARA). ORFEUS-SPAS will fly free of the Shuttle for slightly more than 13 days before it is retrieved for the return to Earth.

For three days during that nearly two-week period, the other major payload, the Wake Shield Facility-3 (WSF-3), also will fly free of the orbiter, creating an ultra-vacuum in its wake to grow thin films for next-generation electronics.

STS-80 will mark the first time that two payloads will be deployed, free-flown simultaneously, and later retrieved during the same Shuttle flight.

Other goals of the 16-day mission include conducting a variety of microgravity research experiments and performance of two six-hour spacewalks to continue the flight test and evaluation of hardware and procedures for future extravehicular activities (EVAs), especially in the assembly and maintenance of the International Space Station.

The 21st flight of Columbia (OV-102) will begin with liftoff from Pad B, Launch Complex 39, into a 219-statute-mile (190-nautical-mile/352-kilometer) orbit at a 28.5-degree angle to the equator. The mission is scheduled to conclude with a landing at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Leading the experienced five-member STS-80 crew will be two-time space flyer Kenneth D. Cockrell as mission commander. A captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Cockrell was a mission specialist on STS-56 in 1993 and the pilot on STS-69 in 1995.

Assisting him at the controls will be Pilot Kent V. Rominger (Cmdr., USN), who also served in that capacity on STS-73 in 1995.

The three mission specialists are Tamara E. Jernigan and Thomas D. Jones, who will perform both EVAs, and Story Musgrave, the intravehicular crew member assisting the spacewalkers from the crew cabin.

Jernigan, who has a doctorate in space physics and astronomy, has flown three times, as a mission specialist on STS-40 in 1991 and on STS-52 in 1992, and as payload commander on STS-67 in 1995.

Jones, who has a doctorate in planetary science, was a mission specialist on STS-59 and payload commander of STS-68, both flights of the Space Radar Laboratory in 1994.

On STS-80, Musgrave will equal American astronaut John Young’s record of six space flights. At 61, he also will be the oldest human to fly in space. He was selected by NASA as a scientist-astronaut in 1967, but did not fly until the Space Shuttle program. Musgrave, who has a doctorate in medicine, served as a mission specialist on STS-6 in 1983, STS 51-F in 1985, STS-33 in 1989 and STS-44 in 1991, and as the payload commander on the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-61 in 1993.


About seven hours after launch, ORFEUS-SPAS-2 will be deployed to study the life cycle of stars and the nature of the interstellar medium. Many of the celestial objects it will look at have never or rarely been observed in the far and extreme ultraviolet range. This part of the electromagnetic spectrum is obscured from ground-based observations by Earth’s atmosphere.

The free-flying SPAS platform, which is about the size of the flatbed of a large pickup truck, will operate some 40 miles (64 kilometers) behind the Shuttle before its retrieval and reberthing in the payload bay on flight day 14.

Two spectrographs, the German-built Far Ultraviolet Spectrograph (FUV) and the American-designed Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrograph (EUV), will share the single main German-built ORFEUS telescope. Its 39-inch-diameter (1-meter) mirror is coated with iridium to improve its light-gathering power in the ultraviolet. A third spectrograph, the American-built Interstellar Medium Absorption Profile Spectrograph (IMAPS), is attached to the German ASTRO-SPAS platform. All of the instruments flew on the first ORFEUS-SPAS mission, STS-51 in 1993.

STS-80 will build on the data gathered during STS-51, when the payload operated for less than half of the time it will on this flight. For this mission, about 50 percent of the observing time will be made available to the general science community. More than 40 research teams from around the world will analyze data from the mission. DARA also has developed an innovative educational program to use ORFEUS-SPAS data in teaching several subjects to students in 170 schools throughout Germany.

Other non-astronomy payloads on ORFEUS-SPAS-2 include the Surface Effects Sample Monitor (SESAM) to investigate the impact of the space environment on materials and surfaces in different phases of a Shuttle flight; the ATV Rendezvous Pre-Development Project (ARP) investigation, part of the European Space Agency’s Automated Transfer Vehicle development program; and the Student Experiment on ASTRO-SPAS known as SEAS, an electrolysis experiment built by German high school students.

Control of ORFEUS-SPAS will be via the SPAS Payload Operations Center (SPOC) at KSC.

Wake Shield Facility-3

While ORFEUS-SPAS orbits Earth, the crew on flight day 4 will use the orbiter’s robot arm to deploy the second major payload, Wake Shield Facility-3, a 12-foot-diameter (3.6-meter) stainless steel disk which has flown twice before.

While low Earth orbital space is considered a moderate natural vacuum, it still has atmospheric traces that could contaminate crystal growth. While sweeping through space at an orbital speed of approximately 18,000 miles per hour (28,962 kilometers per hour), WSF brushes aside these trace particles and forms a wake, much like the wake of a boat in the water. This creates an ultra-vacuum -- far superior to vacuums created in laboratories on Earth -- where near perfect crystals of semiconductor compounds such as gallium arsenide can be grown.

During its three days of operations, up to seven thin films are scheduled to be grown on the wake side of the approximately 4,600-pound (2,086-kilogram) platform. This method of growing crystals in an atom-by-atom, layer-by-layer manner in a vacuum environment is called molecular beam epitaxy.

While most electronic components used today are made of the semiconductor silicon, other types of semiconductor materials -- particularly compound semiconductors -- have the potential of producing higher-performance electronic and opto-electronic devices. Epitaxial thin film materials grown on WSF could result in higher-efficiency infrared lasers, higher-frequency transistors for personal communications systems, higher-efficiency energy converters for hybrid electric vehicles and remote electric power systems, and low-noise transistors for wireless communications.

WSF will fly at a distance of about 20-25 nautical miles (37-46 kilometers) behind Columbia and no less than 25 nautical miles (46 kilometers) from ORFEUS-SPAS before its retrieval by Columbia on flight day 7.

The Wake Shield Facility was designed, built and is operated by a NASA Commercial Space Center, the Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center at the University of Houston, in conjunction with its industrial partner, Space Industries Inc. of Houston. It previously flew on STS-60 in 1994 and STS-69 in 1995.

Extravehicular Activities

Spacewalks by Jernigan and Jones on flight days 10 and 12 will be the fifth set in the continuing series of EVA Development Flight Tests to evaluate equipment and procedures and to build spacewalking experience in preparation for the space station, the initial elements of which are scheduled to be launched from the United States and Russia in 1997.

The first spacewalk will evaluate use of a 6-foot-tall (1.8-meter) crane to move both big and small Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs), which are any piece of equipment that may be replaced on the exterior of the space station such as large batteries.

On the second EVA, spacewalkers will evaluate EVA tethers and tools, and work with a large ORU from the Portable Work Platform, a mobile work site at the end of the space station’s robotic arm.

Other Experiments

Among other microgravity experiments to be conducted during the mission are two ongoing collaborative efforts of NASA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH-R4 will study the role of calcium in blood pressure regulation and function in rats; NIH-C6 will further test the hypothesis that the absence of gravity has a negative effect on bone formation.

A collection of student-designed experiments comprise the Space Experiment Module, which is designed to increase educational access to space and encourage participation by students.

Biological Research in Canister will investigate the influence of gravity on genetically altered tomato and tobacco seedlings.

Visualization in an Experimental Water Capillary Pumped Loop will study use of such technology as an option for thermal spacecraft management.

The Commercial Materials Dispersion Apparatus Instrumentation Technology Associates Experiment is for commercial biotechnology research in such fields as diabetes treatment, development of natural pesticides, breast cancer inhibitors, and sealants to protect structures against acid rain.