STS-94 Day 8 Highlights
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- On Tuesday, July 8, 1997, 6:00 a.m. CDT, STS-94 MCC Status Report # 14
- With more than 40 percent of their mission completed, Columbia's
seven astronauts are continuing around-the-clock science
investigations in the Spacelab module, focusing on how various
materials and liquids change and behave in weightlessness.
- After a brief handover with their blue team counterparts just after
midnight, the red team members -- Commander Jim Halsell, Pilot Susan
Still, Mission Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialist Greg
Linteris -- took over responsibility for the management of science
operations aboard the Shuttle.
- After completing his daily exercise period, Halsell conducted status
checks and performed video documentation of some of the Microgravity
Science Laboratory experiments and activities in the Spacelab. The
first part of Pilot Susan Still's day involved monitoring orbiter
systems and working an in-flight maintenance procedure with the
Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX). Following a daily lab
planning session, Thomas continued experiments in the Glovebox unit
and Linteris worked with the Combustion Module.
- After they take a lunch break, Thomas and Linteris will continue the
same science efforts with the addition of work with the Large
Isothermal Furnace. Halsell and Still will continue watching over
Shuttle systems, performing some air monitoring checks as well. They
also will conduct some communication sessions with the SAREX unit.
- A possible SAREX communication session between the crew aboard
Columbia and astronaut Mike Foale aboard the Mir space station may
take place just before 2 p.m. CDT at 7/00:57 MET. If it happens, the
linkup between the two spacecraft will be accomplished by routing
Foale through ham radio operators at the Johnson Space Center and into
mission control. The Shuttle and Mir will not be passing close to one
another for this communications opportunity. The conversation between
Mir and Columbia will depend on Foale's schedule.
- The STS-94 Blue team, Payload Commander Janice Voss, Mission
Specialist Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger Crouch, will be
awakened just after 11 a.m. CDT and will take over responsibility for
science and orbiter operations shortly after 1 p.m.
- On Tuesday, July 8, 1997, 7:00 a.m. CST, STS-94 Payload Status Report # 11
- As the Microgravity Science Laboratory mission approaches the
half-way mark of its planned 16-day flight, researchers are reporting
overall good results so far, and one of the combustion science
research teams, which completed its experiment last night, says the
information it gathered on this mission is even better than hoped for.
- Payload Commander Dr. Janice Voss performed the last run of the
Laminar Soot Processes experiment in the Combustion Module last night,
and according to lead scientist Dr. Gerard Faeth of the University of
Michigan at Ann Arbor, "it was gorgeous; the best of them all."
Between both missions, the one in April and this one, 17 tests were
completed, three more than originally scheduled. "Every one worked and
yielded good data," said Faeth. "That was beyond my wildest dreams."
- Researchers learned that achieving non-buoyant, or steady, flames is
a lot tougher than thought and so was predicting some of the flame
burning characteristics. "After the first few runs we got some
starting points, and it was easy to predict when the soot would be
produced," said Faeth, "but predicting how much soot was much more
- The science team will now spend at least the next 12 months poring
over information gained from the study. "There is a tremendous amount
of data that comes out of each test," said Faeth, "so there's plenty
to do." Findings from the investigation may lead to a better
understanding of how to contain unwanted fires, burn fuels more
efficiently and reduce pollutants. "The study is a good example of a
process found in a diesel engine," said Faeth.
- Later, Voss removed and stowed the soot experiment hardware and
began preparing the Combustion Module for an investigation known as
Structure of Flame Balls at Low Lewis Number, or SOFBALL. The study is
designed to determine under what conditions a stable ball of flame can
exist and if heat loss is responsible in some way for the
stabilization of the flame ball during burning.
- This experiment is designed to provide researchers with a better
understanding of the combustion process and will help to improve
theoretical models. "Combustion models give different results for
these types of flames," said investigator Dr. Paul Ronney of the
University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "This is an acid
test to show which, if any, current combustion models should be used."
- Three runs of the Droplet Combustion Experiment were completed
overnight. The experiment is collecting information on burning rates
of flames, flame structures and conditions under which flames are
extinguished. The experiment involves burning a droplet of heptane
fuel at different atmospheric pressures. Last night's run was at
one-half atmospheric pressure, half of that on Earth, in a mixture of
helium and 25 percent oxygen.
- "We had one excellent run," said project scientist Dr. Vedha Nayagam
of NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. "It is more
difficult to ignite the droplets at lower pressure, but we think we
have the procedure down now and it is just a matter of
coordination. Timing is critical."
- Results of this investigation will also provide researchers with a
better understanding of how combustion occurs and may lead to cleaner
and safer ways to burn fuels as well as more efficient methods of
generating heat and power on Earth.
- In the TEMPUS levitating furnace facility last night, an experiment
run was ended when the vapor levels reached the maximum amount allowed
for the sample. The experiment is studying glass formation in
zirconium-based metals. The experiment had been given additional run
time, however, so although it ended early it completed the full
originally scheduled run.
- Later, Payload Specialist Dr. Roger Crouch performed a scheduled
changeout of the TEMPUS side view camera, then activated an experiment
to study the nucleation, or point at which solidification from the
melted state begins, in liquid zirconium. During the experiment, the
melts will be cooled below their freezing points. Researchers are
interested in determining the temperatures at which nucleation occurs
and how many nucleations occur at each temperature. Nucleation is an
important chemical and industrial process.
- Later, Crouch performed a shear cell rotation of the sample
processing in the Large Isothermal Furnace. This procedure is part of
an experiment to study the diffusion process of tracers, or
impurities, in melted germanium, an element widely used as a
semiconductor and alloying agent.
- During the shear cell rotation, samples of pure germanium and
germanium with an impurity are rotated into contact with each
other. After an opportunity to mingle together, or diffuse, the
resulting single sample is sheared into segments and cooled for
- Findings from materials science experiments aboard Spacelab,
including investigations under way in the TEMPUS and Large Isothermal
Furnace facilities, may lead to improved techniques of processing
materials on Earth and in turn better products.
- This morning, Mission Specialist Dr. Donald Thomas is conducting a
study of capillary- driven heat transfer devices in the Middeck
Glovebox. The goal is to examine the performance of these devices in
microgravity and improve their reliability. Similar devices may be
used to transfer heat from electrical systems to radiators. Capillary
heat transfer is attractive for use in space because it requires no
power to operate and such devices cost less because they weigh less.
- Payload Specialist Dr. Gregory Linteris is continuing to prepare the
Combustion Module for the first SOFBALL test. Ahead, Linteris will
initiate the second of six planned runs of the diffusion study under
way in the Large Isothermal Furnace and complete a scheduled procedure
to change out a disk of one of the microgravity measurement systems on
- On Tuesday, July 8, 1997, 5:00 p.m. CDT, STS-94 MCC Status Report # 15
- The Space Shuttle Columbia continues to orbit the Earth in excellent
condition, providing a stable and reliable platform for more than 30
separate scientific investigations being conducted on board.
- The seven crew members, working in two teams to provide 24-hour
science support to the investigations, are devoting most of their
attention to working with the Microgravity Science Laboratory
experiments. Earlier today, Pilot Susan Still discussed procedures
for stowing one of those experiments, a plant growth investigation
called Astro-PGBA, with the flight control team in Houston.
- Astro-PGBA is currently located in the Express Rack in the Spacelab
module, where it will remain until the crew begins stowage activities
in anticipation of a planned July 17th landing at the Kennedy Space
Center. For both launch and landing, Astro-PGBA is stowed in two
middeck lockers. Once on orbit, the experiment was moved to the
Express Rack in the Spacelab module, and two empty lockers from the
Express Rack were moved to the middeck. At that time, the crew
encountered some difficulty in removing a long-handled allen wrench
from a bolt in the lower left hand corner of the middeck stowage
position. Earlier today, Still made a careful survey of the area
today, checking all four bolts, removing and reinstalling lockers and
reported to the flight control team that she had no problem with the
locker or bolts. Based on Still's input, Astro-PGBA will be stowed in
its planned stowage location for entry.
- Shortly before 2 p.m. today, Mission Commander Jim Halsell, Payload
Commander Janice Voss and Mission Specialist Mike Gernhardt spoke with
astronaut Mike Foale aboard the Mir space station during a 10-minute
ham radio contact that was routed to Columbia's crew. At the time of
the conversation, the two spacecraft were about 1,100 miles apart with
Mir tracking southeast from Canada over much of the mid-western United
States before passing over Florida and the Atlantic Ocean. Columbia,
meanwhile, was skirting the coast of Central America and crossing over
the northern portions of South America throughout the
conversation. The astronauts discussed the docking of the Progress
resupply vehicle to Mir, with Foale's Mir 23 crew mate Alexander
Lazutkin announcing that "Christmas had arrived." Foale also
invited Columbia's crew over for a cup of tea, after a fresh supply
arrived on the Progress.
- The Blue team, Payload Commander Janice Voss, Mission Specialist
Mike Gernhardt and Payload Specialist Roger Crouch, assumed
responsibility for orbiter and science operations shortly after 1
p.m. today and continue their support of combustion investigations in
the Spacelab module. The Red team; Halsell, Still, Mission
Specialist Don Thomas and Payload Specialist Greg Linteris, will
awaken just after 11 p.m. to mark the start of Flight Day 9 for the
Microgravity Science Laboratory Mission.
- On Tuesday, July 8, 1997, 6:00 p.m. CST, STS-94 Payload Status Report # 12
- Crew members aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia were busy today,
conducting more combustion, materials and fluid science experiments as
the Microgravity Science Laboratory Mission approached its mid-point.
- This morning Mission Specialist Dr. Don Thomas performed an
experiment which studies capillary-driven heat transfer devices. The
experiment is already shedding new light on how these devices work and
is offering explanations as to why they occasionally fail in
- The investigation examines the device's ability to transfer heat
away from a particular location. In the future these devices may be
used to transfer heat from electrical equipment to radiators on
spacecraft. The benefits of these systems are that they weigh less
than conventional units because they operate on evaporation and
condensation, and are more economical because they do not require
- This morning, Payload Specialist Dr. Gregory Linteris attempted to
ignite the first flame balls of the mission in the Structure of Flame
Balls at Low Lewis-number experiment, but the run produced only
"flame kernels," explained project scientist Dr. Karen
Weiland of NASA's Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
- "What resulted this morning, when the igniter was sparked, were not
really flames," said Weiland. The reason was that this sample was
much weaker than the mix that burned during the STS-83 mission. On
the previous mission, flame balls burned for 500 seconds --
dramatically longer than investigators had expected.
- Weiland said the science team is not totally surprised that flame
balls did not develop in today's first experiment run because the mix
is approaching the flammability limit. Another run scheduled for this
evening will test a richer fuel mix that should be easier to ignite.
- The experiment, conducted in the Combustion Module 1, is designed to
determine under what conditions a stable flame ball can exist and if
heat loss is responsible for the stabilization of the flame ball
during burning. The experiment also examines how various mixture
properties, such as fuel/oxidizer concentrations and temperature,
affect the flame-ball's stability and existence.
- "In pre-mixed gases used for combustion on Earth, we simply don't
understand the mechanisms of flame extinction (what makes the fire go
out), what stabilizes it, or what keeps it going," said Dr. Paul
Ronney of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
"These stationary spherical flame balls are the simplest to study,
learn from and then apply to Earth applications."
- Results of the experiment could lead to improvements in lean-burn
internal combustion engines, increased efficiency and reduced
emissions. Other benefits may include improved fire safety for mine
shafts, chemical plants and spacecraft.
- Midday, before the end of his shift, Linteris changed a disk the
Quasi-Steady and Space Acceleration Measurement system. The system is
one of four on board the Shuttle which detects and records the small,
yet unavoidable disturbances in the near-zero gravity environment of
the Spacelab. Science teams rely on the information, down-linked in
near-real-time, to determine the effect of the disturbances on
- After his daily exercise period, Payload Specialist Dr. Roger Crouch
performed the Internal Flows in a Free Drop experiment. This
investigation, led by Dr. Satwindar S. Sadhal of the University of
Southern California in Los Angeles, are allowing researchers to assess
the potential for a containerless, non-contact mixing method that
could lead to improvements in chemical manufacturing, petroleum
technology, cosmetics and food sciences.
- Crouch deployed free single liquid drops of water, and water and
glycerin, of varying sizes into the Glovebox and then positioned the
spinning drops using sound waves or acoustic manipulation. Tracer
particles inside the drops give scientists the ability to map the
internal flows taking place as the drops are manipulated by sound
- Processing of a liquid zirconium sample underway in TEMPUS will
continue for another 14 hours. Researchers are studying nucleation,
or the point at which solidification begins. So far the sample has
been melted and then cooled below its freezing point -- while still a
liquid -- more than 70 times. Researchers are interested in
determining the temperatures at which nucleation occurs and how many
nucleations occur at each temperature. Nucleation is an important
chemical and industrial process.
- Ahead, after a scheduled half day break, Voss will resume combustion
investigations, performing the second in a series of flame ball
experiments and Crouch will perform another run of the experiment that
examines the positioning of fluids using sound waves.
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