Spaceflight Now: STS-92 Mission Report

Camera shows what it's like to launch aboard shuttle
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: October 11, 2000

  Ingress
Commander Duffy climbs into his seat.
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Liftoff
Main engines and boosters ignite for liftoff.
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SRB Sep
Solid rocket boosters separate.
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Flashes
Flashes of light during launch.
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The Discovery astronauts late this evening downlinked dramatic video from inside the cockpit of the space shuttle, showing the jerking and shaking of launch and a surprising light show produced by the ship's main engine exhaust plume as the spacecraft left the atmosphere.

The camera was positioned at the back of Discovery's upper flight deck, looking forward over the shoulders of flight engineer William McArthur and, to his right, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. in front of them were commander Brian Duffy in the forward left seat and rookie pilot Pamela Melroy in the front right seat.

Discovery's three main engines began firing up 6.6 seconds before liftoff, shaking the crew about as they throttled up. At 7:17 p.m., the shuttle's two solid-fuel boosters ignited, pushing Discovery skyward and jerking the astronauts about with obvious force.

"In the scene there, you can see the boosters light and right before that, you can see engine start with sort of a high-frequency, low-amplitude vibration," Duffy narrated. "We were all impressed with the ride uphill."

Two minutes and five seconds after liftoff, Discovery's two solid-fuel boosters were jettisoned, pushed away by small rocket motors that produced a brilliant flash in the shuttle's cockpit windows.

"And pretty clearly there you can see the boosters come off," Duffy commented.

Three minutes and 42 seconds after liftoff, Duffy could be seen reaching across a central instrument console with his right hand to shake Melroy's left.

"Of course, Mario, you can see there Pam at that moment was the greatest pilot anybody had ever seen as she became our newest astronaut," McArthur radioed astronaut Mario Runco in mission control.

"Roger that, Bill, concur completely," Runco replied.

As Discovery climbed out of Earth's atmosphere, the plume from the shuttle's three main engines began expanding, no longer constrained by atmospheric pressure, resulting in a dramatic litght show in the cockpit. The light flickered and flared sporadically as if a spotlight with a bad connection was sparking on and off.

The view was unusual and caught veteran space observers - and some NASA officials - by surprise. But mission control commentator Eileen Hawley said it was all quite normal.

"As the crew climbed to orbit, the plume or the cloud that results from the launch, from the engines, begins to move forward and around the orbiter itself, resulting in the kind of flashes of bright light we're seeing in that video," she said.

The astronauts signed off for the night shortly before 12:30 a.m. Crew wakeup is scheduled for 8:17 a.m.

Shuttle Latest
Discovery successfully landed at 2059 GMT (4:59 p.m. EDT) today at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Bad weather at Kennedy Space Center in Florida diverted landing to Edwards.

The astronauts were awakened at 6:25 a.m. EDT today for a third day of landing attempts.


See the Status Center for full play-by-play coverage.

Flight Plan
Upcoming major events for the crew of Discovery:

12:27 PM Auxiliary Power Unit prestart.
12:47 PM Mission Control "go/no go" for deorbit burn.
01:07 PM Discovery begins deorbit burn to begin trip home.

All times EDT (GMT -4 hours).

Flight Data File
Quick look data - Facts, figures and important information about the mission.

Flight plan - A detailed day-by-day timetable of the major mission events based on NASA's official flight plan.

Mission hardware - The major components and equipments that make up the shuttle vehicle for STS-92.

The crew - Meet the seven astronauts who will fly aboard shuttle Discovery.

Key personnel - Listing of the major people behind the shuttle flight.

Space demographics before and after - How the space explorers numbers will stack up before and after STS-92.

Tracking spacecraft - Latest orbital data for tracking the shuttle, station and other satellites on your computer.

Explore the Net - A list of useful links to other Internet sites with information related to STS-92.


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