Sixth Shuttle-Mir Docking

KSC Release No. 69-97
May 1997

Space Shuttle Mission STS-84 aboard Atlantis will be the sixth of nine planned dockings of the Shuttle with the Russian Space Station Mir. It will include the transfer of the fifth U.S. astronaut to live and work on the Russian orbiting outpost.

STS-84 Mission Specialist C. Michael Foale will join Mir 23 cosmonaut crew members, Commander Vasily Tsibliev and Flight Engineer Alexander Lazutkin, by replacing STS-81 mission specialist and Mir 23 crew member Jerry M. Linenger on Mir. Linenger has been on the Russian outpost since Jan. 15, shortly after Atlantis last docked with Mir during the STS-81 mission. Foale is scheduled to remain on Mir for slightly more than four months when he will be picked up by Atlantis in late September and returned to Earth.

The primary objectives of STS-84 are the docking and exchange of U.S. astronaut crew members; the transfer of science equipment, Russian logistics and other supplies; and performance of joint experiments, including Risk Mitigation Experiments in support of Phase 1 of the International Space Station.

The 84th Space Shuttle launch and 19th flight of Atlantis (OV-104) will begin with liftoff from Pad A, Launch Complex 39. Atlantis will ascend at a 51.6-degree inclination to the equator for direct insertion to a 184-statute-mile (160-nautical-mile/296-kilometer) orbit. Atlantis is expected to rendezvous and dock with Mir at an altitude of 213 nautical miles on Flight Day 3, and remain docked for five days.

The planned nine-day mission is scheduled to conclude with a landing at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

The Crew

As mission commander, two-time space flyer Charles J. Precourt (Col., USAF) will lead the crew of four other veteran space flyers and two rookies. Precourt flew as a mission specialist on STS-55 in 1993 and as the pilot of STS-71, the first Space Shuttle docking with Mir, in 1995. He became an astronaut in 1991. From October 1995 to April 1996, he had responsibility for mission operations activities in the joint Shuttle-Mir program as director of operations for NASA at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

Assisting him at the orbiter controls will be Pilot Eileen Marie Collins (Lt. Col., USAF). Her initial space flight in 1995 was as the first woman Shuttle pilot. On that flight, STS-63, Discovery and its crew made the first Shuttle orbiter approach and flyaround of Mir. Collins became an astronaut in 1991.

Three-time space flyer Foale was a fellow crew member with Collins on STS-63, and also served as a mission specialist on STS-45 in 1992 and on STS-56 in 1993. The native of England has a doctorate in laboratory astrophysics. Foale was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1987. He trained at the Russian cosmonaut training center in preparation for the long-duration flight as a Mir crew member.

NASA astronauts also serving as mission specialists on STS-84 are rookie space flyers Carlos I. Noriega (Major, USMC) and Edward Tsang Lu.

A native of Lima, Peru, Noriega was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1994.

Lu has a doctorate in applied physics. He also was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1994.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency contributed the other two mission specialists for STS-84. A native of France, Jean-Francois Clervoy was selected in the second group of French Space Agency astronauts in 1985, before joining ESA’s astronaut corps in 1992. Clervoy flew once before on the Shuttle, as a mission specialist on STS-66 in 1994.

Russian Space Agency cosmonaut Elena V. Kondakova will be making her second space flight, but her first on the Space Shuttle. She was on the Russian space station when Collins and the other members of the STS-63 crew performed the first approach/flyaround of Mir. She spent 169 days in space as flight engineer of the 17th main mission on Mir from Oct. 4, 1994, to March 9, 1995. She flew to Mir on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Kondakova was selected as a cosmonaut candidate in 1989. She will be the third Russian cosmonaut to fly on the Shuttle as a mission specialist.

Linenger will join the remaining six members of the STS-84 (minus Foale) on their return to Earth. During his stay on Mir, he became the first U.S. astronaut to conduct a spacewalk wearing a Russian spacesuit. Before he arrived on Mir aboard Atlantis on STS-81, Linenger flew as a mission specialist on STS-64 in 1994. He has a doctorate in medicine and a doctor of philosophy degree in epidemiology. He joined the astronaut corps in 1992.

International Space Station Program

After STS-84, three more dockings and two more crew exchanges are planned through May 1998 as part of Phase 1 of the International Space Station program. During Phase 1, Americans and Russians work together in laboratories on the Mir and the Shuttle orbiters, conduct joint spacewalks and practice space station assembly by adding new modules to Mir. Under Phase 1, four Americans so far have lived on Mir.

Former astronaut Norman E. Thagard was the first U.S. astronaut to live and work on Mir. He spent four months on the Russian space station in 1995.

Astronaut Shannon W. Lucid kicked off a continuous U.S. presence in space by her March 22, 1996, launch on Mission STS-76. She spent a U.S.-record 188 days in space until her return to Earth on Sept. 26, 1996, at the conclusion of the STS-79 flight.

John E. Blaha replaced Lucid on Mir, and spent 128 days in space until his return on Jan. 22, 1997, at the end of the STS-81 mission.

Blaha’s successor was Linenger, who was launched on the STS-81 mission on Jan. 12, 1997.

Foale will be replaced by STS-86 Mission Specialist Wendy B. Lawrence (Cmdr., USN). The STS-86 launch is targeted for liftoff in mid-September 1997.

Lawrence is scheduled to be succeeded by David A. Wolf (M.D.), who would arrive aboard Discovery during the STS-89 mission early next year. Wolf is the last U.S. astronaut scheduled for a long-duration stay on Mir. The final Shuttle-Mir docking to pick up Wolf would be STS-91 targeted for next May.

Assembly of the International Space Station program is expected to get under way next year with the Russian and American launches of the first station elements. Under Phase 2, components will be assembled to establish a three-person crew capability and a laboratory environment for science and technology activities.

Phase 3 through 2002 will complete the assembly and provide permanent habitation quarters for up to seven people, and full international science research capability.

Payloads and Experiments

For the third consecutive Shuttle-Mir docking mission, a pressurized SPACEHAB Double Module will be used to carry more than 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of science equipment/experiments; long-duration crew items such as medical equipment and supplies; and logistics such as food, clothing and batteries to the 11-year-old Russian space station. About 1,400 pounds (635 kilograms) of water generated by the orbiter’s fuel cells will be transferred from Atlantis to Mir.

The Double Module also will carry a nearly 300-pound (136-kilogram) oxygen generator to replace one of two Mir units which have experienced malfunctions. The Russian-made generator functions by electrolysis, which separates the Mir wastewater into its oxygen and hydrogen components. The hydrogen is vented and the oxygen is used for breathing by the Mir crew. Atlantis will return the generator which is not working.

ESA’s Biorack facility will share a double rack in the module with the Life Sciences Laboratory Equipment Refrigerator/Freezer. The Biorack is a multipurpose facility which enables biological investigations of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on the development of plants, cells, tissues and fungus. The refrigerator/freezer will carry processed samples from the Biorack and Mir samples such as urine and saliva from the crew.

The Risk Mitigation Experiments (RME) are a series of investigations to monitor the Mir for crew health and safety and to evaluate technology applications for the International Space Station. Also scheduled to fly are experiments to monitor cosmic radiation.

The JSC Project Human Life Sciences payload supports several experiments, including the effects of microgravity on sleep, metabolic stress response, protein metabolism, immune functions and sensory perception.

The Queen’s University Experiment in Liquid Diffusion is a joint investigation among the U.S., Canadian and Russian Space Agencies.

Middeck payloads include the Biological Research in Canisters; two protein crystal growth (PCG) experiments, PCG-Single Thermal Enclosure System and the Diffusion-Controlled Crystallization Apparatus for Microgravity; the Fundamental Biology Beetle Kits to study microgravity effects on Tenebrionid Beetles; and the Electrolysis Performance Improvement Concept Studies (EPICS) to test water electrolysis technology.

The Shuttle Ionespheric Modification with Pulsed Local Exhaust (SIMPLEX) and the Midcourse Space Experiment (MSX) require no hardware.

Shuttle/Payload Processing

Atlantis’ last flight was the fifth docking mission, STS-81, in January. It also is scheduled to fly the next docking mission, STS-86, in September.

The SPACEHAB Double Module was prepared for flight at the SPACEHAB Payload Processing Facility in Cape Canaveral. Atlantis rolled out to the pad on April 24 and the SPACEHAB Double Module was installed in the orbiter’s payload bay on April 28.