STS-83 Day 3 Highlights
Back to STS-83 Flight Day 02 Highlights:
- On Sunday, April 6, 1997, 6:00 a.m. CST, STS-83 Payload Status Report # 03
reports: (MET 1/16:39)
- After nearly two full days in space, the crew of the Microgravity
Science Laboratory mission has successfully activated all Spacelab
facilities and, along with science teams on the ground, is getting
down to the primary business of the mission -- to conduct fundamental
scientific research in space.
- Startup difficulties with one of the combustion experiments aboard
Space Shuttle Columbia were successfully resolved Saturday afternoon
and all research facilities are now fully operational.
- Working with Alternate Payload Specialist Dr. Paul Ronney at the
Spacelab Mission Operations Control Center in Huntsville, Ala.,
Payload Commander Dr. Janice Voss changed a cable configuration. This
procedure resolved a communications glitch between a laptop computer
and the Combustion Module. The module is a facility used to perform
experiments and to test combustion hardware and experiment methods on
- Payload Specialist Dr. Gregory Linteris then activated the Laminar
Soot Processes experiment in the facility. This study, headed by
Dr. Gerard Faeth of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is
collecting information on flame shape, the type and amount of soot
produced under various conditions and the temperature of soot
components. Carbon monoxide emissions associated with soot are the
primary source of fatalities in unwanted fires. Information gathered
from the study may lead to a better understanding of how to contain
unwanted fires and limit the number of fatalities from carbon monoxide
- Twenty-three hours into the mission, just after noon Saturday, Voss
and Payload Specialist Dr. Roger Crouch of the mission's Blue Team
assumed science operations aboard the Shuttle.
- Late Saturday afternoon, Voss configured the Droplet Combustion
Apparatus for a study of burning fuel droplets. The study is gathering
information on burning rates of flames, flame structures and
conditions when a flame is extinguished.
- A major amount of the energy produced around the world comes from
burning fuels, said Dr. Vedha Nayagam, project scientist for the
Droplet Combustion Experiment, from NASA Lewis Research Center in
Cleveland, Ohio. By studying burning fuel droplets in space and
comparing the results to theoretical models, we can learn about the
chemistry of these fuels. This will help us to burn these fuels more
efficiently and minimize pollutants.
- Crouch began his shift Saturday afternoon by powering up the Middeck
Glovebox facility to begin a fluid physics study which examines
non-contact and remote manipulation techniques for controlling the
position and motion of liquids in low-gravity. Results of this study
may find application in improving many important processes used by
chemical manufacturing industries on Earth, including the petroleum
technology, cosmetics and food sciences industries.
- Just prior to the end of the Blue Team's shift -- around 2:30
a.m. CDT Sunday -- Crouch completed the first of two runs of a study
being conducted in the Large Isothermal Furnace. This investigation is
a study of the diffusion of impurities in molten salts. Diffusion is
the process by which liquid metals mix without stirring -- similar to
how the smell of baking bread, for instance, spreads from the oven
throughout the house. This process cannot be adequately studied on
Earth because of fluid movement caused by gravity.
- The goal of the experiment is to determine the diffusion coefficient
of the sample -- a fundamental quantity which describes the diffusion
process. The study, headed by Dr. Tsutomu Yamamura of Tohoku
University in Sendai, Japan, is designed to reveal ideal conditions
for electrolysis of molten salts. Electrolysis is the use of an
electrical current to break down a dissolved substance into its
constituent components. Results may also benefit basic science and
engineering processes on Earth.
- Early this morning, when Red Team crew members began their 12-hour
shift, Mission Specialist Don Thomas initiated the first of two
studies in the Large Isothermal Furnace to test a specially designed
experiment cartridge. This cartridge will be used to conduct two of
the metallic alloy diffusion studies planned for later in the mission.
- Ahead, Thomas will continue the diffusion study in the furnace;
Linteris will continue the soot study in the Combustion Module; and
Thomas will continue the fluid drop study in the Glovebox. Prior to
handing over to the Blue Team, Thomas will transfer the plant growth
experiment in the Shuttle's Middeck to the EXPRESS rack. Voss and
Crouch will assume science operations aboard the Shuttle around
mid-day and continue fluid drop, droplet combustion and soot studies.
- While maintaining their primary focus on proceeding with normal
planned science operations, the experiment teams are also assessing
their options if Columbia's Fuel Cell #2 situation should impact
- On Sunday, April 6, 1997, 7:00 a.m. CST, STS-83 MCC Status Report # 4
- Science activities associated with the Microgravity Science
Laboratory-1 (MSL) payload are proceeding as planned while the
flight team in Houston continues to monitor the performance of one of
the shuttle's three fuel cell power units.
- The issue with fuel cell number 2 is a degradation in one portion of
the fuel cell. There are three fuel cells on board Columbia, each
containing three stacks made up of two banks of 16 cells each. In one
stack of fuel cell 2, the difference in output voltage between the two
banks of cells has been increasing.
- Late last evening, the shuttle's electrical power configuration was
adjusted to reduce the demands on fuel cell number 2. Since the power
reconfiguration, the behavior of fuel cell number 2 has stabilized.
Flight controllers have decided to leave the shuttle's power systems
in their current condition while they monitor and evaluate trends.
- The Mission Management Team with hold a meeting at 8 a.m. CDT this
morning to assess the status of the fuel cell and the options
available for future flight operations. Shuttle managers will report
on the results of the meeting in a press briefing at 10 a.m. CDT.
- On Sunday, April 6, 1997, 12:00 p.m. CST, STS-83 MCC Status Report # 5
- Space shuttle managers today decided to cut short the STS-83
Microgravity Science Laboratory-1 mission because of problems with one
of the shuttle's three fuel cell power generation units.
- In a meeting that concluded at 9 a.m. CDT, NASA's Mission
Management Team (MMT) decided to order the early return due to data
received on fuel cell number 2, which has exhibited evidence of
internal voltage degradation since launch. To ensure the safety of
the crew and Columbia, mission managers decided to reduce power demand
on the degraded cell and to isolate it from the other two fuel cells,
which are performing normally. Meanwhile, flight controllers and
engineers on the ground are continuing analysis of fuel cell data in
order to decide whether to shut down the defective unit or to leave it
operating at minimum output in a standby mode.
- Columbia is now scheduled to land at 1:35 p.m. CDT Tuesday at
Kennedy Space Center. There is no concern for crew safety.
- The shuttle has three fuel cells, which use a reaction of liquid
hydrogen and liquid oxygen to generate electricity and produce
drinking water. Although one fuel cell produces enough electricity to
conduct on-orbit and landing operations, shuttle flight rules require
that all three be functioning well to ensure the safety of the crew
and provide sufficient backup capability for the highly dynamic
reentry and landing periods.
- Spacecraft Communicator Chris Hadfield informed the crew of the
decision at 9:21 a.m. CDT, saying: "The MMT had all players in on
the meeting right through from the factory. The consensus is they
just do not understand the behavior of fuel cell 2. Even though your
efforts have done a good job toward stabilizing the problem, it's
significantly out of family. So, we'll shorten the mission"
- Commander Jim Halsell replied, "That's certainly a disappointment
but we know you guys put your best effort forward and you're doing the
right thing. We appreciate all the work that's gone into that"
- The early landing, which is only the third of the shuttle program
behind STS-2 in November 1981 and STS-44 in November 1991, means that
scientists will not be able to perform the majority of the research
planned for the MSL mission. Columbia continues to circle the Earth
in a 188 x 183 statute mile orbit every 90 minutes with all of its
other systems operating normally.
- On Sunday, April 6, 1997, 6:00 p.m. CST, STS-83 Payload Status Report # 04
reports: (MET 2/03:39)
- Microgravity Science Laboratory researchers at Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville, Ala., are working to take maximum advantage of
the remaining hours before Space Shuttle Columbia's return to Earth
Tuesday. A malfunction in the Shuttle's number two fuel cell will end
the mission much earlier than the planned return on April 20. Though
disappointed because of the need to cut the mission short, Mission
Manager Teresa Vanhooser at the Marshall Center said that the Spacelab
science control team was working with the crew members aboard Columbia
to reduce experiment run times and to realign the mission's schedule
to maximize the scientific return. Researchers hope to get as many
science experiments completed as possible in the short time remaining.
- Despite this condensed time period, researchers have been able to
record a first in the Combustion Module.
- We've hit a homerun -- it's the first truly steady non-buoyant flame
that's been observed by anybody anywhere on Earth, said Combustion
Scientist Dr. Gerard Faeth from the University of Michigan, Ann
Arbor. While describing results from the Laminar Soot Processes
experiment, he stated that scientists have gotten their first glimpse
of the concentration and structure of soot from a fire burning in
microgravity. It's a real first and the pictures we saw today will
probably find their way into textbooks of the future, said Faeth.
- Much of the energy from fire is expelled in the soot it
produces. Researchers are gaining a better understanding of the role
soot plays in combustion and how it is produced by different
fuels. Soot has a lot of negative attributes and that's why we're
concerned about it. It's a pollutant, said Faeth. It is harmful to
public health. It is the major source of difficulties of unwanted
fires in homes. Soot has carbon monoxide associated with it, which is
toxic and in that role soot is responsible for the deaths of about
4,000 people a year in the United States, and it's responsible for
fire injuries of about 25,000.
- Working in concert with science teams on the ground at the Marshall
Center, Columbia crew members Dr. Gregory Linteris and Dr. Don Thomas
continued experiments in TEMPUS, a German acronym for the
electromagnetic levitation furnace facility. These investigations were
pushed up in the timeline, according to William Hoffmeister, assistant
TEMPUS investigator at Marshall Center. The team was able to activate,
observe and complete an experiment run by melting a zirconium metal
sample and levitating it in the facility. This experiment, led by
Vanderbilt University Professor Robert Bayuzick, is studying the
relationship between internal flows in liquids and the amount of
undercooling that can be tolerated before solidification occurs. To
understand this experiment, Bayuzick said, imagine if you cooled a
glass of distilled water. The temperature could go below freezing
without the water actually becoming ice. That is undercooling.
However, if the glass were tapped or disturbed, then the water would
freeze very quickly. This process may have many benefits to
industry. New, enhanced properties in never-before-seen materials
could become possible.
- Thomas continued work in the middeck Glovebox as he conducted the
experiment called Internal Flows in a Free Drop. Tracer particles
inside the drop gave scientists the ability to map the internal flows
taking place as the drop was manipulated by sound waves. Understanding
the flows of fluids has far reaching applications for scientists in
the areas of weather prediction and ocean flows. Acoustic positioning
using this containerless technique is important to industries such as
chemical manufacturing, petroleum, cosmetics and food sciences.
- Later Thomas also set up the Large Isothermal Furnace for the Liquid
Phase Sintering experiment. This investigation tests theories on how
liquefied materials form a mixture without reaching the melting point
of the new alloy combination.
- Pilot Susan Still monitored the cooling samples from the earlier
Large Isothermal Furnace experiments. These dealt with the diffusion
of different types of metals. Diffusion is a process where two
compounds mix -- much like how a droplet of food coloring will slowly
mix into a glass of water. After Columbia's return, researchers
will cut the column of lead-tin-telluride into segments to study how
uniform the various components mixed during sample cooling.
- Before the end of his shift, Linteris continued work in the
combustion module, performing the Droplet Combustion Experiment. The
purpose of this experiment is to collect information on the burning
rates of flames, flame structures and conditions when extinguishing a
flame. With improved understanding of droplet combustion, the results
of this experiment could lead to cleaner and safer ways to burn fossil
fuels, and more efficient methods of generating heat and power on
- The experiment, Coarsening in Solid-Liquid Mixtures investigation
was moved up in the schedule as well. This experiment may help
researchers develop improved manufacturing processes and stronger
alloys. Because the coarsening experiment was moved up, it was decided
that the Astro/Plant Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus would remain
stowed in the middeck compartment.
- Meanwhile, protein crystal growth experiments continue unattended as
- During this shift, researchers also dealt with a temporary
malfunction of the Experiment Control Systems Computer. This computer
oversees all the experiments aboard Spacelab. Commander Jim Halsell
Jr. ran trouble shooting steps to remedy the problem. Science
experiments continued after only a short interruption.
- On Sunday, April 6, 1997, 6:00 p.m. CST, STS-83 MCC Status Report # 07
- This afternoon, Columbia's crew shut down one of three
electricity-generating fuel cells that had been experiencing problems
since shortly after launch and made plans for ending the STS-83
mission on Tuesday, 12 days early, following a decision by shuttle
managers this morning to shorten the flight.
- Science activities are continuing inside the Microgravity Science
Lab-1 today, however, with the two remaining fuel cells operating
normally and supplying electricity for the lab experiments and for
Columbia's systems. The laboratory module is not planned to be
deactivated until late Monday evening as the crew readies for the
Tuesday return to Earth. Fuel cell 2, as the problem cell is
designated, was shut down by the crew at about 2:30 p.m. CDT
today. After the fuel cell was shut down, the crew also powered down
several pieces of non-critical equipment aboard Columbia to provide
additional power for the experiment work.
- Columbia's Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Susan Still and Mission
Specialist Don Thomas will answer questions from media at JSC, the
Kennedy Space Center, Fl., and the Marshall Space Flight Center,
Huntsville, Al., in a 20-minute press conference planned for 8:31
a.m. CDT Monday.
- The three shuttle fuel cells generate electricity by combining
liquid hydrogen and oxygen and creating, as a byproduct,
water. Although only one operational fuel cell can provide sufficient
electricity to safely conduct Columbia's orbital and landing
operations, shuttle managers decided to end the mission early due to
the loss of the failed fuel cell as a backup to the two currently
operating cells. The loss of the fuel cell also reduces the amount of
power available for experiments.
- Later this afternoon, flight controllers noted an apparent problem
with one of two Pulse Code Master Modulation Units (PCMMUs) on
Columbia as the crew was working with a computer that controls
experiments in the Spacelab module. The two PCMMUs serve as relay
stations to transmit data and telemetry from a variety of sources on
board to the ground and to the Columbia's five flight control
computers. The crew switched to the second PCMMU and have not
experienced further problems, and flight controllers are continuing to
analyze the trouble. The problem did not interrupt the ongoing science
operations. Columbia is now scheduled to land at 1:35 p.m. CDT Tuesday
at Kennedy Space Center.
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