STS-74 was a Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

Space Shuttle Atlantis
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is a retired Space Shuttle orbiter in the Space Shuttle fleet belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , the spaceflight and space exploration agency of the United States...

 mission to the Mir
Mir was a space station operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, at first by the Soviet Union and then by Russia. Assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996, Mir was the first modular space station and had a greater mass than that of any previous spacecraft, holding the record for the...

 space station. It was the fourth mission of the US/Russian Shuttle-Mir Program
Shuttle-Mir Program
The Shuttle–Mir Program was a collaborative space program between Russia and the United States, which involved American Space Shuttles visiting the Russian space station Mir, Russian cosmonauts flying on the shuttle and an American astronaut flying aboard a Soyuz spacecraft to engage in...

, and it carried out the second docking of a space shuttle to Mir. Atlantis lifted off for the mission on 12 November 1995 from Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center
The John F. Kennedy Space Center is the NASA installation that has been the launch site for every United States human space flight since 1968. Although such flights are currently on hiatus, KSC continues to manage and operate unmanned rocket launch facilities for America's civilian space program...

 launch pad 39A
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39
Launch Complex 39 is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, USA. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built for the Apollo program, and later modified to support Space Shuttle operations. NASA began modifying LC-39 in 2007 to...

, and landed back at Kennedy 8 days later. The mission delivered the Russian-built Mir Docking Module
Mir Docking Module
The Stykovochnyy Otsek , GRAU index 316GK, otherwise known as the Mir docking module or SO, was the sixth module of the Russian space station Mir, launched in November 1995 aboard the...

 to the station along with a pair of solar arrays, and was the second in a series of seven straight missions to the station flown by Atlantis.

During the three-day docking, the Russian, Canadian and American astronauts transferred various supplies from Atlantis to Mir, moved several long-term experiment
Long-term experiment
A long-term experiment is an experimental procedure that runs through a long period of time, in order to test a hypothesis or observe a phenomenon that takes place at an extremely slow rate....

s, pieces of equipment and manufactured products from Mir to the Atlantis, and made use of various new pieces of equipment to upgrade Mir, most notably attaching the Docking Module to Mirs Kristall
The Kristall module was the fourth module and the third major addition to the Mir space station. As with previous modules, its configuration was based on the 77K module, and was originally named "Kvant 3". It was launched on May 31, 1990 on a Proton rocket...

 module for use by all of the following docked missions in the Shuttle-Mir Program.


Mission parameters

  • Mass
    Mass can be defined as a quantitive measure of the resistance an object has to change in its velocity.In physics, mass commonly refers to any of the following three properties of matter, which have been shown experimentally to be equivalent:...

    • Orbiter Liftoff: 112358 kilograms (247,707 lb)
    • Orbiter Landing: 92701 kilograms (204,370.7 lb)
    • Payload: 6134 kilograms (13,523.2 lb)
  • Perigee
    Perigee is the point at which an object makes its closest approach to the Earth.. Often the term is used in a broader sense to define the point in an orbit where the orbiting body is closest to the body it orbits. The opposite is the apogee, the farthest or highest point.The Greek prefix "peri"...

    : 391 kilometres (243 mi)
  • Apogee: 396 kilometres (246.1 mi)
  • Inclination
    Inclination in general is the angle between a reference plane and another plane or axis of direction.-Orbits:The inclination is one of the six orbital parameters describing the shape and orientation of a celestial orbit...

    : 51.6°
  • Period
    Orbital period
    The orbital period is the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object.When mentioned without further qualification in astronomy this refers to the sidereal period of an astronomical object, which is calculated with respect to the stars.There are several kinds of...

    : 92.4 min

2nd Mir docking mission

  • Docked: 15 November 1995, 06:27:38 UTC
  • Undocked: 18 November 1995, 08:15:44 UTC
  • Time Docked: 3 days, 1 h, 48 min, 6 s

Mission background

The crew's preparation for the mission had begun some thirteen months earlier in 1994, with the crew being trained in the operation of the space shuttle, the mating and docking procedures that would be required as Atlantis approached Mir later in the mission, and the management of the various scientific experiments being carried on the orbiter during the mission.

Preparation of Atlantis itself for mission STS-74 began with the replacement of three thrusters in Atlantiss right-hand Orbital Maneuvering System pod in bay 2 of the Orbiter Processing Facility
Orbiter Processing Facility
An Orbiter Processing Facility was one of three hangars where U.S. space shuttle orbiters underwent maintenance between flights. All three such facilities, OPF-1, OPF-2 and OPF-3, were located at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at Launch Complex 39.They were located west of the Vehicle...

 on 25 August 1995. Installation of the three Space Shuttle Main Engine
Space Shuttle main engine
The RS-25, otherwise known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine , is a reusable liquid-fuel rocket engine built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for the Space Shuttle, running on liquid hydrogen and oxygen. Each Space Shuttle was propelled by three SSMEs mated to one powerhead...

s (SSMEs) on Atlantis was completed on 5 September 1995, as were closeout operations on the Russian docking module.

On 7 November, engineers determined that there was no additional work needed to verify the solid rocket boosters
Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster
The Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters were the pair of large solid rockets used by the United States' NASA Space Shuttle during the first two minutes of powered flight. Together they provided about 83% of liftoff thrust for the Space Shuttle. They were located on either side of the rusty or...

 for flight, following discovery of small cracks in the hold-down posts attached to boosters that had flown earlier that year. Close inspections of the STS-74 stack determined that no such cracks were present on the boosters to be used for the mission.

Pad 39A was cleared on 9 November in preparation for loading of the onboard cryogenic tanks with the cryogenic oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

 and hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 reactants that provided electricity through the three onboard fuel cells, and water for the flight as a by-product.

The initial launch attempt, scheduled for 11 November 1995 at 7:56 am EST
Eastern Time Zone
The Eastern Time Zone of the United States and Canada is a time zone that falls mostly along the east coast of North America. Its UTC time offset is −5 hrs during standard time and −4 hrs during daylight saving time...

 (12:56 pm UTC) was postponed due to poor weather at the Transatlantic Abort (TAL) site. The original launch window was 6 min 57 secs and the countdown had begun on schedule. The crew was on board when the postponement was called at the T-minus 5 minute mark at approximately 7:51 am EST (12:51 pm UTC).

12 November (launch and flight day 1)

Following a poll of the mission management team at 7:12 am EST in which all stations (with the exception of the Shuttle Range Officer) returned a "go for launch" and the eventual clearance of the range for launch at 7:20 am EST, Atlantis raced into the sky at the beginning of a 10-minute, 9-second launch window following a flawless countdown with no unscheduled holds. The shuttle lifted off the pad at 7:30:43 am EST; the main engines were shut down at 7:39 am EST.

About 43 minutes after launch, a 2 minute and 13 second engine firing changed the shuttle's path into a 162 nautical mile circular orbit. Once on orbit, the five crew members began configuring Atlantis for on-orbit operations. Atlantiss payload bay doors were opened about 90 minutes into the flight, followed by a "go" for on-orbit operations.

Approximately three hours into the flight, Commander Ken Cameron and Pilot Jim Halsell fired the orbiter's reaction control jets in the first of a series of rendezvous burns that refined Atlantiss path towards Mir. Shortly after the jet firing, the first Canadian mission specialist, Chris Hadfield, activated the Russian-built docking module, housed in the shuttle's payload bay, ready for the docking of the module with Atlantis's Orbiter Docking System on flight day 2.

13 November (flight day 2)

The five-member crew aboard the space shuttle Atlantis spent the bulk of their first full day in space readying the orbiter and its payloads for the mating of the Russian docking module to the Orbiter Docking System in advance of the 15 November docking to Mir. Both the module and the docking system were located in Atlantiss payload bay.

Mission specialists Jerry Ross and Bill McArthur inspected the spacesuits they would don should a spacewalk become necessary during the mating or docking operations. Following the space suit inspection, Mission Specialist Chris Hadfield powered up the orbiter's robot arm in preparation for the next day's transfer of the docking module over to Atlantiss docking system. All systems affiliated with the robot arm operated as expected and were ready to support the mating.

The crew members also checked out the Advanced Space Vision System
Advanced Space Vision System
The Advanced Space Vision System is a computer vision system designed primarily for International Space Station assembly...

, a precise alignment system for the robot arm that was tested on STS-74. The OSVS, which was used during the mating operation, consisted of a series of large dots placed on the exterior of the docking module and the docking system.

The day's schedule also included the installation and alignment of the centerline camera in the centre of the Orbiter Docking System. The camera later assisted Commander Ken Cameron in final piloting tasks as Atlantis moved towards and docked with Mir. At 5:00 am CST (11:00 am UTC) on day 2, Atlantis was about 4,000 statute miles behind Mir, and was closing in to the space station at a rate of about 380 statute miles per orbit.

Cameron, Hadfield and other available crew members also spent the morning answering questions posed by Canadian reporters located in Montreal and Toronto. Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, was the fourth Canadian astronaut to fly on the shuttle.

With all of the systems that were to put the Russian Docking Module in place for a flight day 4 link-up with Mir checked out and ready to go, the STS-74 crew settled down for 8 hours of sleep that afternoon.

14 November (flight day 3)

On flight day 3, the STS-74 crew members successfully mated the 15-foot Russian built docking module with the shuttle's Orbiter Docking System. No problems were reported during the mating operation.

Chris Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut and STS-74 mission specialist, used the shuttle's robot arm to hoist the docking module out of the aft portion of the payload bay, rotated it to a vertical position, and moved it to within five inches of the Orbiter Docking System. At that point, the shuttle fired its downward steering jets and moved the shuttle toward the docking module. Once the two spacecraft were locked together, the docking ring on the Orbiter Docking System retracted, and a series of hooks and latches were engaged to ensure an airtight seal between the two spacecraft.

The mating was confirmed at 1:17 am CST, with Atlantis over eastern Europe on its 30th orbit. Shortly after the capture, Commander Ken Cameron expressed the crew's appreciation for the training that prepared them for the docking module installation.

At about 3:00 am CST, the crew received a go from ground flight controllers to ungrapple the robot arm from the docking module. Shortly after that, crew members raised the orbiter's cabin pressure from 10.2 pounds per square inch to 14.7 psi. The cabin's pressure was lowered in the event that a problem during the mating process necessitated an emergency spacewalk.

Crew members also mounted a centerline camera into the top hatch of the docking module. The camera later provided the primary visual cue for Cameron as he maneuvered Atlantis to its docking with Mir on flight day four.

By 5:00 am EST, Atlantis was trailing Mir by about 1,450 statute miles and closing at a rate of about 180 statute miles every orbit. A series of rendezvous jet firings later further refined the closing rate, leading up to a docking with Mir at 06:27:38 UTC on 15 November.

15 November (flight day 4 and docking)

Atlantis finally docked to Mir's Kristall module using the docking module's top androgynous unit on flight day 4. The tension was high aboard Atlantis as Cameron maneuvered the shuttle towards Mir using the orbiter's thrusters. Atlantis docked with Mir at 06:27:38 UTC following a faultless set of orbital maneuvers. After all the required checks had been completed and the hatches had been opened, the five shuttle astronauts moved into Mir, ready to carry out three days of combined operations with Mirs resident crew, Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko
Yuri Gidzenko
Yuri Pavlovich Gidzenko is a Russian cosmonaut. He was a test cosmonaut of the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center . Gidzenko has flown twice into space and has lived on board the Mir and International Space Stations. He has also conducted two career spacewalks. Although he retired on July 15,...

 and Sergei Avdeyev
Sergei Avdeyev
Sergei Avdeyev is a Russian engineer and cosmonaut.Avdeyev was born in Chapayevsk, Samara Oblast , Russian SFSR. He graduated from in 1979 as an engineer-physicist. From 1979 to 1987 he worked as an engineer for NPO Energiya...

 (carrying out the Mir EO-20 expedition) and ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter
Thomas Reiter
Thomas Arthur Reiter is a retired European astronaut and is a Brigadier General in the Luftwaffe currently working as Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations at the European Space Agency . , he was one of the top 25 astronauts in terms of total time in space...

 (flying on the Euromir 95 expedition). The two crews greeted each other with handshakes and hugs before carrying out a traditional gift exchange, with flowers and chocolates being swapped between the crews.

16–19 November (flight days 5–8)

During the three days of combined shuttle-Mir operations, Atlantiss crew transferred various items from the shuttle to the space station, including water, supplies, and equipment, along with two new solar arrays (one Russian and one jointly-developed) to upgrade Mir.

The crew also transferred various experiment samples, equipment for repair and analysis and products manufactured on Mir back to Atlantis for transfer back to Earth, along with the University of California
University of California
The University of California is a public university system in the U.S. state of California. Under the California Master Plan for Higher Education, the University of California is a part of the state's three-tier public higher education system, which also includes the California State University...

 Berkeley Trek Experiment which had been flying on orbit aboard Mir for the previous four years.

Meanwhile, flying aboard Atlantis was the GPP payload which consisted of two experiments – the GPP experiment and the Photogrammetric Appendage Structural Dynamics Experiment (PASDE). The payload was managed by Goddard Space Flight Center
Goddard Space Flight Center
The Goddard Space Flight Center is a major NASA space research laboratory established on May 1, 1959 as NASA's first space flight center. GSFC employs approximately 10,000 civil servants and contractors, and is located approximately northeast of Washington, D.C. in Greenbelt, Maryland, USA. GSFC,...

's Special Payloads Division. The GPP studied the Earth's thermosphere, ionosphere and mesosphere energetics and dynamics using broadband spectroscopy. GPP also studied spacecraft interactions with the atmosphere by observing shuttle and Mir glow, shuttle engine firings, water dumps and fuel cell purges.

Three PASDE canisters, located throughout the cargo bay, also photogrammetrically recorded structural response data of the Mir solar arrays during the docked phase of the mission. This data was later analyzed on the ground to verify the use of photogrammetric techniques to characterize the structural dynamics of the array, thus demonstrating that this technology would result in cost and risk reduction for the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...


At 08:15:44 UTC on 18 November, Atlantis undocked from the docking module's bottom androgynous unit, leaving the docking module permanently attached to the Kristall module, where it provided clearance between the shuttle and Mirs solar arrays during subsequent dockings.

20 November (flight day 9 and landing)

Flight day 9 consisted primarily of preparations for landing, and the landing itself. Atlantiss deorbit burn was performed on orbit 128 at around 11:00 am EST (4:00 pm UTC), leading to a landing at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, on Runway 33 of the Shuttle Landing Facility.

The main landing gear touched down at 12:01:27 pm EST (05:01:27 pm UTC) on 20 November, a mission elapsed time (MET) of 8 days 4 hours 20 minutes and 44 seconds. Nose gear touched down at 8 days 4 hours 30 minutes 54 seconds (12:01:37 pm EST – 5:01:37 pm UTC) and Atlantiss wheels stopped at an MET of 8 days 4 hours 31 minutes 42 seconds (12:02:24 pm EST – 5:02:24 pm UTC), bringing the 73rd space shuttle mission to a close.

A second landing opportunity had been planned in case of bad weather, for a KSC landing at 1:37 pm EST with a deorbit burn at 12:36 pm on orbit 129, but it was not required.

See also

  • Space science
    Space science
    The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

  • Space shuttle
    Space Shuttle
    The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

  • List of space shuttle missions
  • List of human spaceflights chronologically

External links

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