My Shuttle Missions

Below is a list of missions I worked on during my tenure at NASA. I’ve added a little blurb about what I did on each. I worked many more missions doing either middeck experiment installation just before launch or recovery operations after landing. Honestly I’ve forgotten all those that I’ve worked on and have included only those for which I did payload integration work.

STS-36: DoD Payload

sts36I’m not sure it’s really kosher to say I “worked” this mission. This mission was at launch p 39-A when I started. I was in the Payload Changout Room (PCR) during a few operations as a wide-eyed 20-something with nothing to contribute other than tripping over my shoe laces every once in a while. I had gotten my secret clearance to work missions like this. I never used it again as the DoD stopped flying payloads on the shuttle shortly after I began work.

STS-31: Hubble Space Telescope

sts31I’m pretty proud of the fact that I got to work on the Hubble mission, one of the most celebrated shuttle missions ever. By the time this mission rolled around I had gotten my sea legs and was trusted with very important third-shift duty (third-shift = 11:00 pm – 7:00 am). I’d sit in the changeout room of the PCR on Pad-B and “manage” any scheduled activities. Do you know what gets scheduled on third shift? I don’t either because I didn’t see any. I must say, however, that looking up at the school-bus-sized space telescope nestled in Discovery’s payload bay was awe inspiring.

STS-40: SLS-1 (Space Life Sciences – 1)

sts40This was the first mission where I actually got to start turning wrenches – unfortunately only after the mission was over. I disassembled a number of the SpaceLab experiments.

STS-42: IML-1 (International Microgravity Laboratory – 1)

sts42Another payload where all I did was disassemble some experiments. It was, however, the first time I got to put in middeck experiments just before launch.

STS-45: ATLAS-1 (Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science – 1)

sts45What I did with the ATLAS-1 payload was probably some of the most important work I did while with NASA. One of the experiments that flew on the mission was called the Millimeter Wave Atmospheric Sounder – or MAS for short. MAS had a dish antenna as a primary component. The skin on that antenna was 1/10th the thickness of a piece of paper. It was also right next to where people got on and off the payload to do work. Can you guess what happened? The $92M experiment got damaged – a lot. I led a team that looked at ways to reduce damage to payloads while we assembled them on the ground. We came up with all sorts of new and cool things, one was the first piece of ground hardware ever designed for a specific shuttle payload (for ATLAS-2). Between ATLAS-1 and ATLAS-2 we reduced the amount of time spent repairing damage by 98% and many of our solutions became business as usual for future payloads.

STS-50: USML (US Microgravity Laboratory)

sts50This was the first payload where I did a significant amount of assembly work. Specifically I worked on the Drop Physics Module and Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS). SAMS-II is in use on the International Space Station (ISS).

STS-47: Spacelab-J (Japanese)

sts47I did quite a bit of work on Spacelab-J. I installed the FEU – Frog Environmental Unit – yes, we flew frogs on this mission. I also was on the team that put the frogs and other life science into the Spacelab just before launch. Unlike middeck experiments where you just step into the crew cabin at the pad, for these you had to lower someone about forty feet down the Spacelab tunnel on a bosun’s chair then lower the experiment stuff down too. The system was called MVAK, or the Module Vertical Access Kit. It included a complex cable and pulley system utilizing two cranes that got installed in the middeck and in the joggle (the bend) in the Spacelab tunnel.

Module Vertical Access Kit (MVAK)

I found the diagram below depicting how MVAK was used. I was the backup on one mission and the lead MVAK engineer on another.

mvak2

 

STS-56: ATLAS-2

Sts-56-patchLike ATLAS-1 I did a fair amount of work supporting improved access to the payload while at its ground station. One of the cooler things I did was installing the ATMOS GAS can experiments. GAS stands for “Get Away Special.” These were sort of fire-and-forget experiments that shot off and did their own thing. The experiments were delivered late and I had to devise a way to put them in while the orbiter was vertical at the pad. It was the first time it had ever been done.

STS-55: Spacelab D2 – German Mission

sts-55-patchAnother Spacelab mission, I did quite a bit of experiment integration work on this one. Working with the Germans was a lot of fun and they sure loved being in Florida. Paradise, they called it. They sure have a wierd sense of what paradise is. My primary responsibility was to install the Galactic Ultra-Wide-Angle Schmidt System (GAUSS) Camera.

STS-58: Space Life Sciences – 2 (SLS-2)

sts58Yet another Spacelab mission. My responsibility was integration of the General Purpose Work Station, or GPWS. It was basically a contained glove box where astronauts could perform work with the jelly fish and rats outside their cages without exposing them to the environment in the Spacelab.

STS-65: International Microgravity Lab (IML-2)

sts65IML-2 was the second flight of the International Microgravity Lab and was another Spacelab mission. I performed several integration tasks, including working with the scientific centrifuge.

STS-73: US Microgravity Lab (USML-2)

sts-73-patchUSML-2 was the first mission on which I performed astronaut training and performed final consumables loading of the Spacelab. Caty Coleman made us cookies for the training.

STS-90: Neurolab

sts-90-patchNeurolab was my last shuttle mission. It was also the last Spacelab mission and the last time I was onboard an orbiter (Columbia). In addition to experiment integration work I built my Space Shuttle Virtual Tour.

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