Static View of STS-87 Columbia at Liftoff.
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STS-87 Liftoff Status Page

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Shuttle Columbia Launch Status

Launch November 19, 1997 14:46 EST. Launch window was 2 hours 30 minutes.

On Wednesday, November 19, 1997, the countdown preceeded smoothly. At 9:27am EST the count entered the hold at the T-minus 3 hour mark and came out of the hold at 11:26am. The External Tank was fully loaded with liquid oxygen (LO2) and liquid Hydrogen (LH2) and was in stable replenish mode. At 11:30am the crew departed the astronauts quarters in the KSC Operations and Checkout (O&C) building and arrived at the launch pad at 11:47am EST. By 12:49pm EST the entire crew was strapped into their launch positions and orbiter closeout operations began. Air to ground voice checks were completed at 1:02pm EST and at the T-minus 1 hour mark (1:20pm EST) the hatch was closed and locked for flight. At 2:05pm EST the countdown entered the T-minus 20 minute hold and the launch team came out of the hold at 2:16pm EST. At 2:27pm EST the launch team was polled and at 2:37pm EST, launch director Jim Harrington gave a final clear for launch. Launch occured exactly on time at 2:46pm EST. This launch was the first to use a "heads-up" maneuver which has the SSME's automatically rotate the orbiter from belly-up to belly-down approximately 6 minutes after liftoff. This procedure will be used on all future low inclination (due East) launches. It allows the orbiter to communicate 2.5 minutes sooner with the space based tracking and data relay network (TDRS) system and eliminates the need for the Bermuda tracking station.

On Monday, November 17, 1997, loading of cryogenic reactants into the power reactant storage and distribution system was planned for 1 p.m., but was delayed by about four hours due to lower than acceptable helium readings in the orbiter midbody umbilical unit cavity. Helium is used to purge the tanks before reactant loading. Workers were sent out to Pad 39B to inspect the purge line interfaces and tightened the fittings. Following those troubleshooting activities, consoles in the firing room indicated an acceptable helium concentration and reactant loading began at about 4:30 p.m. Mangers expect to recuperate from the delay with no significant impacts to the launch schedule. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 11/17/1997)

On Sunday, November 16, 1997 the STS-87 flight crew arrived at KSC's Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) at about 3:15 p.m. and underwent routine pre-flight medical exams and final mission familiarization briefings in the days leading up to launch. Commander Kevin Kregel and Pilot Steven Lindsey practiced SLF approaches in the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA). The launch countdown for STS-87 began on time at 3 p.m. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 11/16/1997)

Columbia began the roll out to Pad 39B at 7 a.m. Wednesday 10/29/97 and arrived at launch Pad 39B at about 2:45 p.m. after traveling 4.2 miles from the VAB atop th crawler transporter. Pad validations are in work and a hot fire test of auxiliary power unit No. 2 scheduled for later tonight. Vertical payload installation begins Saturday morning. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 10/29/1997)

Columbia was mated to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in VAB high bay 3 on Saturday, 10/25/97 and the Shuttle interface test concluded on 10/28/97. The U.S. Microgravity Payload has been transferred to the pad's payload change-out room and the payload canister returned to the Operations and Checkout Building. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 10/27/1997)

On 10/24/97, The Space Shuttle Columbia rolled into the VAB transfer aisle at about 6 a.m. The orbiter will be mated to the external tank and solid rocket boosters in high bay 3 over the weekend and is slated to roll out to Pad 39B on Wednesday. The USMP payload is now scheduled for transfer to the pad on Monday 10/27/97. Workers continue to troubleshoot gear mechanisms at the base of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) and functional tests are slated for Saturday. Managers expect Pad 39B to be ready for payload activities next week; however, support preparations for Pad 39A are under way in case it is needed. No impact to the launch date is anticipated. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 10/24/1997)

On 9/23/97, servicing of Columbia's ammonia system was completed and installation of Columbia's main engines and freon coolant loop has begun. Workers will install GAS beams in the Shuttle's cargo bay for installation of a secondary payload on Wednesday, 9/24/97. Solid rocket booster stacking operations are complete for STS-87 and work to mate the external tank to the SRBs is slated to begin Thursday 9/25/97. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 9/22/1997)

On 8/15/97, functional testing of the Shuttle's aft propulsion system continues. Replacement of a flow valve on fuel cell No. 2 was in work. In Columbia's crew module a fuel cell monitoring modification was also underway. Removal of the Shuttle's oxidizer cross-feed line from the orbiter maneuvering system scheduled for 8/16/97. Once the line is isolated and draining activities are complete leak checks and repair work will follow. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 8/19/1997)

On 7/18/97, following Columbia's safe landing at KSC concluding mission STS-94, the orbiter was rolled from the SLF to OPF bay 2 where it was spotted at about 12:20 p.m. Postmission assessments are currently underway. Initial assessments of tile damage from the 16-day flight is reported to be less than average. The orbiter thermal protection system sustained a total of 90 hits of which 12 had a major dimension of 1-inch or larger. Integrated postflight securing and deservicing of the onboard cryogenic system is in work today. The payload bay doors are currently scheduled to be opened next Tuesday. (Reference KSC Shuttle Status 7/18/1997)

The launch was originally scheduled for October 9, 1997 but was slipped to mid November so that Columbia could refly the STS-83 MSL mission that was cut short due to a fuel cell problem.

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