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AERCam Sprint Columbia.jpg
AERCam Sprint, one of the USMP-4 payloads, in flight above Columbia's payload bay
Mission typeMicrogravity research
Technology development
COSPAR ID1997-073A
SATCAT no.25061
Mission duration15 days, 16 hours, 35 minutes, 01 seconds
Distance travelled10,500,000 kilometres (6,500,000 mi)
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftSpace Shuttle Columbia
Landing mass102,717 kilograms (226,452 lb)
Payload mass4,451 kilograms (9,813 lb)
Crew size6
Start of mission
Launch date19 November 1997, 19:46 (1997-11-19UTC19:46Z) UTC
Launch siteKennedy LC-39B
End of mission
Landing date5 December 1997, 12:20 (1997-12-05UTC12:21Z) UTC
Landing siteKennedy SLF Runway 33
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth
Perigee altitude273 kilometres (170 mi)
Apogee altitude279 kilometres (173 mi)
Inclination28.45 degrees
Period90.0 min
Sts-87-patch.svg Sts-87 crew.jpg
Left to right - in orange: Chawla, Lindsey, Kregel, Kadenyuk; in white: Scott, Doi
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STS-87 was a Space Shuttle mission launched from Launch Complex 39B of the Kennedy Space Center on 19 November 1997. It was the 88th flight of the Space Shuttle, and the 24th flight of Columbia. The mission goals were to conduct experiments using the United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4), conduct two EVAs, and to deploy the SPARTAN-201 experiment. This mission marked the first time an EVA was performed from Columbia. An EVA from Columbia was originally planned for STS-5 in 1982, but was cancelled due to spacesuit problems. It also marked the first EVA conducted by a Japanese astronaut, Takao Doi.


Position Astronaut
Commander United States Kevin R. Kregel
Third spaceflight
Pilot United States Steven W. Lindsey
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 1 United States Kalpana Chawla
First spaceflight
Mission Specialist 2 United States Winston E. Scott
Second and last spaceflight
Mission Specialist 3 Japan Takao Doi, JAXA
First spaceflight
Payload Specialist 1 Ukraine Leonid Kadenyuk, NSAU
Only spaceflight

Backup crew

Position Astronaut
Payload Specialist 1 Yaroslav Pustovyi[1]
First spaceflight

Space walks

  • Scott and Doi – EVA 1
  • EVA 1 Start: 25 November 1997 – 00:02 UTC
  • EVA 1 End: 25 – November 1997 – 07:45 UTC
  • Duration: 7 hours, 43 minutes
  • Scott and Doi – EVA 2
  • EVA 2 Start: 3 December 1997 – 09:09 UTC
  • EVA 2 End: 3 – December 1997 – 14:09 UTC
  • Duration: 4 hours, 59 minutes

Mission highlights

Launch of STS-87

STS-87 flew the United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4), Spartan-201, Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE), tEVA Demonstration Flight Test 5 (EDFT-05), the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sending Experiment (SOLSE), the Loop Heat Pipe (LHP), the Sodium Sulfur Battery Experiment (NaSBE), the Turbulent GAS Jet Diffusion (G-744) experiment and the Autonomous EVA Robotic Camera/Sprint (AERCam Sprint) experiment. Mid-deck experiments included the Middeck Glovebox Payload (MGBX) and the Collaborative Ukrainian Experiment (CUE).

STS-87 in-flight crew portrait

United States Microgravity Payload

The United States Microgravity Payload (USMP-4) is a Spacelab project managed by Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama. The complement of microgravity research experiments is divided between two Mission-Peculiar Experiment Support Structures (MPESS) in the payload bay. The extended mission capability offered by the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) kit provides an opportunity for additional science gathering time.


Deployment of SPARTAN

Spartan 201-04 is a Solar Physics Spacecraft designed to perform remote sensing of the hot outer layers of the sun's atmosphere or solar corona. It is expected to be deployed on orbit 18 and retrieved on orbit 52. The objective of the observations are to investigate the mechanisms causing the heating of the solar corona and the acceleration of the solar wind which originates in the corona. Two primary experiments are the Ultraviolet Coronal Spectrometer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the White Light Coronograph (WLC) from the High Altitude Observatory. Spartan 201 has three secondary experiments. The Technology Experiment Augmenting Spartan (TEXAS) is a Radio Frequency (RF) communications experiment which provided flight experience for components baselined on future Spartan missions, and a real time communications and control link with the primary Spartan 201 experiments. This link was used to provide a fine pointing adjustment to the WLC based on solar images downlinked real time. The Video Guidance Sensor (VGS) Flight Experiment is a laser guidance system which tested a key component of the Automated Rendezvous and Capture (AR&C) system. The Spartan Auxiliary Mounting Plate (SPAM) is a small equipment mounting plate which provided a mounting location for small experiments or auxiliary equipment of the Spartan Flight Support Structure (SFSS) It is a honeycomb plate using an experimental Silicon Carbide Aluminum face sheet material with an aluminum core.

Advanced Automated Directional Solidification Furnace

The Advanced Automated Directional Solidification Furnace (AADSF) is a sophisticated materials science facility used for studying a common method of processing semiconductor crystals called directional solidification. Solidification is the process of freezing materials. In the type of directional solidification to be used in AADSF, the liquid sample, enclosed in quartz ampoules, will be slowly solidified along the long axis. A mechanism will move the sample through varying temperature zones in the furnace. To start processing, the furnace melts all but one end of the sample towards the other. Once crystallized, the sample remains in the furnace to be examined post-flight. The solidification front is of particular interest to scientists because the flows found in the liquid material influence the final composition and structure of the solid and its properties.

Confined Helium Experiment

The Confined Helium Experiment (CHeX) provides a test of theories of the influence of boundaries on matter by measuring the heat capacity of helium as it is confined to two dimensions.

Isothermal Dendritic Growth Experiment

Animated GIF of dendrite formation – NASA

The Isothermal Dendritic Growth Experiment (IDGE) is a materials science solidification experiment that researchers will use to investigate a particular type of solidification called dendritic growth. Dendritic solidification is one of the most common forms of solidifying metals and alloys. When materials crystallize or solidify under certain condition, they freeze unstably, resulting in tiny, tree-like crystalline forms called dendrites. Scientist are particularly interested in dendrite size, shape, and how the branches of the dendrites interact with each other. These characteristics largely determine the properties of the material.

Designed for research on the directional solidification of metallic alloys, the Material pour l'Etude des Phenomenes Interssant la Solidification sur Terre et en Orbite (MEPHISTO) experiment is primarily interested in measuring the temperature, velocity, and shape of the solidification front (the point where the solid and liquid contact each other during solidification.) MEPHISTO simultaneously processes three identical cylindrical samples of bismuth and tin alloy. In the first sample, the temperature fluctuations of the moving solidification are measured electrically, with disturbing the sample. The position of the solid to liquid border is determined by an electrical resistance technique in the second sample. In the third sample, the faceted solidification front is marked at selected intervals with electric current pulses. The samples are returned to Earth for analysis. During the mission, MEPHISTO data will be correlated with data from the Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS). By comparing data, scientists can determine how accelerations aboard the shuttle disturb the solid to liquid interface.

Space Acceleration Measurement System

The Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS), sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn Research Center), is a microprocessor-driven data acquisition system designed to measure and record the microgravity acceleration environment of the USMP carrier. The SAMS has three triaxial sensor heads that are separate from the electronics package for remote positioning. In operation, the triaxial sensor head produces output signals in response to acceleration inputs. The signals are amplified, filtered, and converted into digital data. The digital acceleration data is transferred to optical disk memory for ground analysis and downlinked to the ground for near-real-time analysis. Each accelerometer has a mass suspended by a quartz element is such a manner to allow movement along one axis only. A coil is attached to the mass and the assembly is placed between two permanent magnets. An applied acceleration displaces the mass form its resting position. This movement is sensed by a detector, causing SAMS electronics to send a voltage to the coil, producing exactly the magnetic field needed to restore the mass to its original position. The applied voltage is proportional to the applied acceleration and is output to the SAMS electronics as acceleration data.

Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment

While flying separately in the cargo bay, the Orbital Acceleration Research Experiment (OARE), sponsored by NASA Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center), is an integral part of USMP-04. It is a highly sensitive instrument designed to acquire and record data of low-level aerodynamic acceleration along the orbiter's principal axes in the free-molecular flow regime at orbital altitudes and in the transition regime during re-entry. OARE data is also downlinked during the mission for near-real-time analysis in support of the USMP science experiments. OARE data will support advances in space materials processing by providing measurements of the low-level, low frequency disturbance environment affecting various microgravity experiments. OARE data will also support advances in orbital drag prediction technology by increasing the understanding of the fundamental flow phenomena in the upper atmosphere.

Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment

The objective of the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment (SOLSE) is to determine the altitude distribution of ozone in an attempt to understand its behavior so that quantitative changes in the composition of our atmosphere can be predicted. SOLSE is intended to perform ozone distribution that a nadir instrument can achieve. This will be performed using Charged Coupled Device (CCD) technology to eliminate moving parts in a simpler, low cost, ozone mapping instrument. The experiment is housed in a Hitchhiker (HH/GAS) canister with canister extension ring and equipped with a Hitchhiker Motorized Door Assembly (HMDA). Instrumentation includes an Ultraviolet (UV) spectrograph with a CCD array detector, CCD array and visible light cameras, calibration lamp, optics and baffling. Once on orbit a crew member will active SOLSE which will perform limb and Earth viewing observations. Limb observations focuses on the region 20 kilometres (12 mi) to 50 kilometres (31 mi) altitude above the horizon for the Earth's surface. Earth viewing observations will enable SOLSE to correlate the data with other nadir viewing, ozone instruments.

Loop Heat Pipe

The Loop Heat Pipe (LHP) test will advance thermal energy management technology and validating technology readiness for upcoming commercial spacecraft applications. The LHP will be operated with anhydrous ammonia as the working fluid to transport thermal energy with high effective conductivity in zero gravity. LHP is a passive, two-phase flow heat transfer device that is capable of transporting up to 400 watts over a distance of 5 meters through semiflexible, small-diameter tubes. It uses capillary forces to circulate the two-phase working fluid. The system is self-priming and totally passive in operation. When heat is applied to the LHP evaporator, part of the working fluid vaporizes. The vapor flows through the vapor transport lines and condenses, releasing heat. The condense returns to the evaporator via capillary action through the liquid transport lines.

Sodium Sulfur Battery Experiment

The Sodium Sulfur Battery Experiment (NaSBE) characterized the performance of four 40 ampere-hour sodium-sulfur battery cells, representing the first test of sodium-sulfur battery technology in space. Each cell is composed of a sodium anode, sulfur cathode, and solid ceramic sodium ion conducting electrolyte and separator. The cells must be heated to 350 degrees Celsius to liquefy the sodium and sulfur. Once the anode and cathode were liquefied, the cells started to generate electrical power. Once in orbit, a crewmember activated NaSBE and then the experiment was controlled by the GSFC Payload Operations Control Center (POCC).

Turbulent Gas Jet Diffusion Flames

The Turbulent Gas Jet Diffusion Flames (TGDF) payload is a secondary payload that used the standard Get Away Special carrier. Its purpose is to gain an understanding of the fundamental characteristics of transitional and turbulent gas jet diffusion flames under microgravity conditions and to acquire data that will aid in predicting the behavior of transitional and turbulent gas jet diffusion flames under normal and microgravity environments. TGDF will impose large-scale controlled disturbances on well-defined laminar microgravity diffusion flames. The will be on axisymmetric perturbations to laminar flames. The variables for the proposed tests will be the frequency of the disturbance mechanism which will be either 2.5 Hz, 5 Hz, or 7.5 Hz.

Get Away Special

Get Away Special (GAS G-036) payload canister contained four separate experiments that hydrate cement samples, record configuration stability of fluid samples, and expose computer discs, compact discs, and asphalt samples to exosphere conditions in the cargo bay of the orbiter. The experiments are the Cement Mixing Experiment (CME), the Configuration Stability of Fluid Experiment (CSFE), the Computer Compact Disc Evaluation Experiment (CDEE) and the Asphalt Evaluation Experiment (AEE).

Extended Duration Orbiter

The Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) Pallet is a 15-foot (4.6 m) diameter cryo-kit wafer structure. Weighing 352 kilograms (776 lb), it provides support for tanks, associated control panels, and avionics equipment. The tanks store 167 kilograms (368 lb) of liquid hydrogen at −250 degrees Celsius, and 1,417 kilograms (3,124 lb) of liquid oxygen at −176 degrees Celsius. Total empty mass of the system is 1,620 kilograms (3,570 lb). When filled with cryogens, system mass is approximately 3,200 kilograms (7,100 lb). Oxygen and hydrogen are supplied to the orbiter's three electrical power generating fuel cells, where they are converted into sufficient electrical energy to support the average 4 family-member house for approximately 6 months. About 1,360 kilograms (3,000 lb) of pure drinking water is also produced by the fuel cells. With the EDO pallet, the orbiter can support a flight for a maximum of 18 days. Longer on-orbit missions benefit microgravity research, Life Sciences research, Earth and celestial observations, human adaptation to the zero-G environment, and support to the Space Station.

Middeck Glove Box

The Middeck Glove Box (MGBX) is a facility designed for materials science and biological science experiment handling. It consists of two primary systems; an Interface Frame (IF) and a Glovebox (GB). The MGBX facility (with associated electronics) provides an enclosed working area for experiment manipulation and observation on the shuttle mid-deck. The MGBX experiments on this flight are: WCI – The objective of the Wetting Characteristics of Immiscibles was to investigate the influence of alloy/ampoule wetting characteristics on the segregation of immiscible liquids during microgravity processing. The Enclosed Laminar Flames (ELF) experiment objective was to validate the zero-gravity Burke-Schumann model and the gravity-dependent Hegde-Bahadori extension of the model, investigate the importance of the buoyancy-dependent flow field as affected by oxidizer flow on flame stabilization, examine the state relationships of co-flow diffusion flames under the influence of buoyancy conditions (gravity versus pressure), and study the flow vortex and diffusion flame interactions. The Particle Engulfment and Pushing by Solidifying Interfaces (PEP) experiment objectives were to generate an accurate value for the critical velocity in a convection-free environment, validate present theoretical model, enhance fundamental understanding of dynamics of insoluble particles at liquid/solid interfaces, and improve understanding of physics associated with solidification of liquid metals-ceramic particles mixtures.

Collaborative Ukraine Experiment

The Collaborative Ukraine Experiment (CUE) was a mid-deck payload designed to study the effects of microgravity on plant growth. The CUE is composed of a group of experiments that will be flown in the Plant Growth Facility (PGF) and in the Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC). The experiments also required the use of a Gaseous Nitrogen (GN2) Freezer and the fixation hardware. Investigators in Ukraine and the United States (Kansas State University and Louisiana State University) selected the experiments as a model for scientific collaboration between the two countries. The PGF supported plant growth for up to 30 days by providing acceptable environmental conditions for normal plant growth. The PGF is composed of the following subsystems: Control and Data Management Subsystems (CDMS), Fluorescent Light Module (FLM), Atmospheric Control Module (ACM), Plant Growth Chambers (PGCs), Support Structure Assembly (SSA), and the Generic External Shell (GES). The complete PGF replaced one mid-deck locker and operated on 28 V direct current (dc) power. The plant specimen studied in the PGF was Brassica rapa (turnip).

Extra-vehicular Activities

The Extravehicular Activity Development Flight Test – 05 (EDFT-05) consists of the payload bay hardware elements of Detailed Test Objective (DTO) 671, EVA Hardware for Future Scheduled Extravehicular Missions. EDFT – 05's main objective is to demonstrate International Space Station (ISS) on-orbit, end-to-end EVA assembly and maintenance operations. The other DTO's included in this test are DTO 672, Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) Electrical Cuff Checklist and DTO 833, EMU Thermal Comfort and EVA Worksite Thermal Environment. Another objective is to expand the EVA experience base for ground and flight crews. Two EVA's will be performed on this mission to accomplish these DTO's.

Autonomous EVA Robotic Camera

Winston Scott retrieves Sprint

The Autonomous EVA Robotic Camera/Sprint (AERCam/Sprint) is a small, unobtrusive, free-flying camera platform for use outside a spacecraft. The free-flyer has a self-contained cold gas propulsion system giving it the capability to be propelled with a 6 degrees of freedom control system. On board the free-flyer are rate sensors to provide data for an automatic attitude hold capability. AERCam/Sprint is a spherical vehicle that moves slowly and is covered in a soft cushioning material to prevent damage in the event of an impact. The design philosophy is to keep the energy low by keeping the velocities and mass low while providing a mechanism to absorb any energy from an impact. The free-flyer platform is controlled from inside the Orbiter by using a small control station. The operator inputs motion commands from a single, Aid For EVA Rescue (SAFER) device controller. The commands are sent from the control station to the free-flyer via a Radio Frequency (RF) modem link operating in the ultra high frequency (UHF) range.

A comic character in space

The mission marked a lesser known first for having a comic book character being created for a space-going mission, the first to actually fly into space and the first to safely return to Earth. The sponsor and manager of the Enclosed Laminar Flames experiment, Lewis Stocker, noticed the experiments' abbreviation as ELF and, being an avowed reader of the comic book series Elfquest, contacted the series' creators Richard and Wendy Pini and asked to create a logo. Originally, he hoped the series' own star-gazer, Skywise, could be used, but to avoid copyright issues, a unique character was created instead to accompany the experiment insignia, whose name was dubbed Starfire.

Although the comic worlds have their fair share of characters that come from outer space (like Superman), it eventually became the only character to be "earth-bound" to go into space and back, thus far. Even when taking into account the spoof from the Apollo and Gemini programs into account, who have several references to existing cartoon and comic book characters, such as Snoopy, The Road-Runner or Casper, Starfire is in that regard even more truly a unique contribution.[2] [3]

In line with this, a spoof exists depicting the playful disappointment the series' resident star-gazer was not allowed to fly, showing a gruntled Skywise glaring at Starfire, who only shrugs as it was how it was supposed to be.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Ramsay, Janis (21 February 2015). "Barrie astronaut continues to keep eye on skies". Barrie Advance. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^

External links

  • NASA mission summary
  • STS-87 Video Highlights

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.