America’s Destiny: Remembering the Launch of the U.S. Lab, 20 Years On

Twenty years after its arrival, the U.S. Future lab is in the present day cluttered with a large number of analysis payloads and tools, as seen on this current Expedition 64 view. Pictured are U.S. astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, along with Japan’s Soichi Noguchi. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Twenty years in the past, tomorrow, on 7 February 2001, shuttle Atlantis launched the U.S. lab Future to the Worldwide House Station (ISS). Command and management hub, nerve-center for scientific analysis and formally since 2005 a U.S. National Laboratory, this 28-foot-long (8.5-meter) cylinder offered nothing in need of the guts and brains for the biggest and brightest human-made object within the sky.

Video Credit score: NASA, through Nationwide House Society/YouTube

But initially, there mustn’t have been one Future, however two, for when President Ronald Reagan introduced plans to construct a everlasting area station in January 1984, its early conceptual design featured two U.S. labs, a figure revised down to one lab in a major redesign after the January 1986 Challenger disaster.

By August 1988, within the spirit of Reagan-era politics, the station was named “Freedom”. And below the language of preliminary Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) between the USA, Japan, Canada and the member-states of the European House Company (ESA), about 97 % of the lab’s assets had been allotted to NASA and the remainder to Canada, in return for its contribution to building the station’s robotic assets.

The “Energy Tower” idea, unveiled in April 1984, was the earliest incarnation of what later turned House Station Freedom. Picture Credit score: NASA

By the early 1990s, the lab was on account of be delivered on the sixth shuttle meeting mission and its arrival would herald Man-Tended Functionality (MTC) on Freedom, with about half of its 24 payload racks dedicated to analysis and the rest allotted to Environmental Management and Life Help System (ECLSS), Thermal Management System (TCS), Electrical Energy System (EPS) and different operational wants. “The lab is actually the heart of the area station’s analysis and command and management capabilities,” STS-98 astronaut Tom Jones informed a NASA interviewer. “It turns into doable to do science and make the science “high quality science”, due to the arrival of the lab.”

Following additional redesigns of Freedom—and its eventual rebirth because the Worldwide House Station (ISS)—the fabrication of the lab was completed by prime contractor Boeing in September 1995, with a focused launch date in late 1998. It then underwent machining for numerous features, together with the drilling of holes for hatch seals and berthing mechanisms, adopted by the set up of Micrometeroid Orbital Particles (MMOD) defend blankets and numerous mechanical methods, forward of stress testing and portray. 

Rescoped model of House Station Freedom, following the March 1991 redesign. Picture Credit score: NASA

By the late spring of 1997, delays to this system had pushed the first launch of ISS hardware to no sooner than July 1998, which in flip pushed the U.S. lab about six months downstream. Based on Tom Jones, in his memoir, Sky Strolling, veteran astronaut Mark Lee approached him within the spring of 1997 to take part in underwater assessments within the Impartial Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), simply to the north of the Johnson House Heart (JSC) in Houston, Texas. “I didn’t need to get my hopes up,” Jones wrote, “however Mark gave the impression to be carrying round some excellent news, though he was not fairly sure easy methods to share it.”

Early in June 1997, NASA assigned Lee and Jones to coach for 3 classes of Extravehicular Exercise (EVA) to put in the lab on shuttle mission STS-98, then deliberate for Might 1999. The lab could be put in on the aft “finish” of the Unity node, necessitating the robotic elimination of Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-2 from this interface.

The U.S. lab Future, pictured within the foreground, after the departure of Atlantis. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Preliminary plans, crystallized by Lead EVA Officer Kerri Knotts, envisaged Lee and Jones wiring up the lab’s backup heaters to maintain its electronics heat throughout the bitter orbital nighttime, then hooking up energy, information and cooling umbilicals, along with a grapple fixture for the subsequent installation of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. Lastly, the spacewalkers would help within the robotic relocation of PMA-2 to its new location on the ahead finish of the newly-installed lab. “The EVAs had been central to the success of the mission,” Jones wrote. “If we didn’t get the job accomplished, the lab may very well be irreparably broken and the area station’s future analysis and management capabilities significantly degraded.”

But the delays—particularly in relation to Russia’s Zvezda service module—continued, with the launch of the primary station parts postponed till the tip of 1998. This pushed the flight of STS-98 and the lab until no earlier than October 1999. In anticipation of this revised schedule, in August 1998 NASA assigned Ken “Taco” Cockrell, Mark “Roman” Polansky and Marsha Ivins to spherical out the STS-98 crew, with the expectation that the Expedition 1 increment of Commander Bill Shepherd and his Russian comrades Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev could be aboard the ISS for the lab’s set up.

Veteran spacewalker Mark Lee would possibly, however for a quirk of destiny, have led the EVAs on STS-98. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Inside weeks, the Russian monetary collapse factored into the late supply of Zvezda, and STS-98 was pushed till no earlier than January 2000. And as circumstances transpired, the service module didn’t rise to orbit and dock on the ISS till July 2000, which shoved every successive shuttle meeting mission additional downstream and moved STS-98 to no earlier than January 2001.

Though Zvezda’s eventual arrival “would break the meeting logjam and kick off a collection of main building milestones,” in response to Jones, the make-up of his crew had additionally modified considerably. In September 1999, it was revealed that Mark Lee had been faraway from the STS-98 crew, for undetermined causes.

The STS-98 crew poses for his or her official portrait. From left to proper are Bob Curbeam, Mark “Roman” Polansky, Marsha Ivins, Ken “Taco” Cockrell and Tom Jones. Photograph Credit score: NASA

In Sky Strolling, Jones expressed intense disappointment over the choice—Lee’s “management and onerous work” in making ready for the mission, he wrote, “had been not solely superlative however, to me, indispensable”—and the crew’s efforts to win a evaluation of the state of affairs from the Workplace of House Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., had been fruitless.

Lee was changed by veteran astronaut Bob Curbeam, who had himself been in coaching for greater than two years in help of one other mission. “Beamer and I had by no means labored collectively,” Jones recalled, with their respective duties and former missions having “stored us from being greater than nodding acquaintances,” though Curbeam blended seamlessly into the crew. In truth, it was Curbeam who proposed attaching the principle energy and cooling umbilicals onto Future throughout the first EVA, thereby pushing the lab’s activation two days sooner than deliberate.

Mark “Roman” Polansky (left) and Bob Curbeam are pictured throughout pre-launch coaching in June 2000. Photograph Credit score: NASA

As a consequence, Jones now assumed the position of “EV1”, the chief spacewalker, for STS-98 and as launch neared he and Curbeam averaged about 200 hours carried out underwater coaching within the NBL. And with the resumption of ISS building on the STS-92 and STS-97 missions within the fall of 2000—along with the arrival of Expedition 1 to start the everlasting occupation of the outpost—the stage was set for the arrival of the U.S. lab, which had by now acquired the title “Future”.

Initially focused to launch on 18 January 2001, the necessity to resolve an issue related to the separation ordnance of the left-hand Stable Rocket Booster (SRB) delayed the rollout from the Car Meeting Constructing (VAB) to Pad 39A. The wiring was X-rayed and revealed crumbling electrical cable shielding, which was repaired with out the necessity to de-stack the car, however postponed the launch till later in January.

STS-98 takes flight with the U.S. lab, Future, on 7 February 2001. Photograph Credit score: NASA

At size, after additionally weathering a pc malfunction throughout the Cellular Launch Platform (MLP), the shuttle arrived at Pad 39A on the third. Sadly, extra bother was afoot, as assessments of the SRB separation ordnance subject prompted a choice to roll the stack again to the VAB for testing to substantiate the well being of the wiring. This pushed the launch to early February, with managers ultimately selecting the seventh.

Liftoff occurred a few minutes after local sunset, at 6:13 p.m. EST—coincidentally on the Expedition 1 crew’s 100th day in area—and lit up the darkened Florida sky as Atlantis speared for the heavens on a two-day chase of the area station.

Atlantis rises to orbit, shortly after sundown. Photograph Credit score: NASA

“Atlantis surged upward, the bag and rattle settling right into a extra tolerable, but nonetheless pronounced shaking,” Jones wrote. “Atlantis started to rotate onto the right monitor to chase the ISS up the East Coast. I felt the orbiter pirouette gracefully, swing previous the mark, then gently appropriate the overshoot. Heads down now, we arced over the Atlantic; my physique slid tightly in opposition to my shoulder straps and stayed there.”

Using the “full-throated scream” of the SRBs for the primary two minutes, the stack additionally endured the “rising howl” of the slipstream passing Atlantis’ partitions and the “pulsing vibration” of the shuttle’s three principal engines, earlier than the 5 astronauts achieved their preliminary orbit simply 8.5 minutes after departing the Cape.

Atlantis roars to orbit on 7 February 2001. Photograph Credit score: NASA

All through the primary two days, Cockrell and Polansky executed a collection of rendezvous “burns” to attract nearer to the area station and by the early hours of 9 February the pilots pressed into their ultimate procedures as Atlantis reached simply 9 miles (15 km) from its vacation spot.

At 11:51 a.m. EST, Cockrell performed a smooth docking at the Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA)-3 interface, situated on the Earth-facing (or “nadir”) port of the Unity node. This was the second such docking at PMA-3, and Cockrell was required to undertake a “tail-forward” perspective—with Atlantis’ nostril directed alongside the station’s lengthy axis—thereby creating the right situations for the set up of Future.

Marsha Ivins gingerly maneuvers Future out of the shuttle’s cavernous payload bay for set up onto the Worldwide House Station (ISS). Photograph Credit score: NASA

Atlantis and her 5 astronauts had been briefly welcomed by the station’s incumbent Expedition 1 crew, earlier than the hatches had been closed in readiness for the primary of three difficult EVAs by Jones and Curbeam. Early on 10 February 2001, Ivins used the shuttle’s Canadian-built Distant Manipulator System (RMS) mechanical arm to take away the PMA-2 docking adapter from the ahead “finish” of Unity, to be able to make room for the set up of the Future lab.

Assisted by visible cues from Jones, Ivins “temp-stowed” PMA-2 onto the station’s nascent truss. It marked the beginning of a joint EVA/robotics operation which might characterize the remainder of the mission.

Marsha Ivins, Ken Cockrell and Mark Polansky peer by Atlantis’ overhead flight deck home windows at certainly one of their spacewalking buddies throughout STS-98. Photograph Credit score: NASA

As Jones assisted Ivins, Curbeam eliminated protecting launch covers and disconnected electrical energy and cooling umbilicals between Future and the shuttle. At 12:23 p.m. EST, Ivins grappled Future with the RMS and raised it from the payload bay, “flipping” it 180 levels and aligning it for a clean attachment to the Unity ahead port at 1:57 p.m., the place it was bolted into its everlasting dwelling.

In a stroke, the work elevated the area station’s liveable quantity by about 3,800 cubic ft (107.6 cubic meters) to a complete of greater than 13,000 cubic ft (368 cubic meters) and expanded the dwelling quarters of Shepherd’s crew by 41 %. With the 32,000-pound (14,500-kg) lab in place, Jones and Curbeam set to work connecting electrical, energy, and information cables.

Expedition 1 Commander Invoice Shepherd (heart) consults the doc of receipt for the Future lab, as STS-98 astronauts Ken Cockrell (left) and Mark Polansky look on. The still-closed hatch from Unity into Future is seen within the background. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Their work ran easily, except for a small ammonia leakage as Curbeam was putting in a cooling umbilical. This prompted flight controllers to impose a decontamination process, during which Curbeam remained in direct daylight for 30 minutes and Jones brushed down his go well with and tools. When the duo returned to Atlantis’ airlock, they carried out a partial repressurization, to be able to flush out any flakes of ammonia, earlier than commencing a ultimate repressurization and subsequent ingress into the orbiter.

Because of the prolonged decontamination effort, EVA-1 lasted greater than 7.5 hours, some 60 minutes longer than meant, however had positioned the STS-98 and Expedition 1 crews favorably to start activating Future’s methods. Later that day, Cockrell and Shepherd started remotely powering up the lab, through laptop computer computer systems, with floor controllers persevering with this effort by the evening.

The pristine inside of a newly-opened U.S. lab, Future. Within the distance is the hatch which can ultimately open into the Concord node. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Subsequent morning, at 9:38 a.m. EST, the 2 commanders opened the hatches and entered Future for the primary time. Thus started a busy schedule to activate air conditioners, fireplace extinguishers, computer systems, inner communications methods, electrical shops, ventilators, alarms, and air-purification tools. So as to save weight, the lab was launched with solely 5 of its eventual 24 payload racks in place, and it was a comparatively spacious, although spartan, module during which the astronauts and cosmonauts labored.

Jones and Curbeam’s second EVA acquired underway at 10:40 a.m. EST on 12 February and noticed them once more functioning in tandem with RMS operator Ivins. The spacewalkers offered visible help as Ivins indifferent PMA-2 from its non permanent perch on the station’s truss and maneuvered it to its new place on the ahead finish of Future, the place it will present the first docking interface for shuttle guests, till the arrival of Node-2.

Bob Curbeam, pictured throughout one of many STS-98 spacewalks. By the tip of his profession, Curbeam had logged seven EVAs and, thus far, is probably the most skilled African-American spacewalker. Photograph Credit score: NASA

With this important job accomplished, Jones and Curbeam put in insulating covers over Future’s launch restraint pins, put in air vents, wires, handrails, and sockets, and had been in a position to press forward into a number of duties initially deliberate for EVA-3: connecting laptop and electrical cables between PMA-2 and the lab, eradicating covers from Future’s high-quality window, and attaching an exterior shutter.

After virtually seven hours outdoors the ISS, the astronauts returned inside Atlantis, as flight controllers started commanding the 4 Management Second Gyroscopes (CMGs) on the Z-1 truss. Put in the earlier 12 months as a method of managing the station’s orientation, they had been to be straight managed by electronics inside Future itself.

Tom Jones served as STS-98’s lead spacewalker. Photograph Credit score: NASA

“For command and management, proper now, we’re in type of a crude mode, the place we use thruster management to take care of perspective on the area station, and that’s a really propellant-intensive exercise,” defined Jones earlier than the flight. “We need to get the gyros…to manage the station’s perspective and the software program and commanding … that make that doable, are all within the lab. That allows a extra fuel-efficient mode of operation, which allows sustaining perspective management with momentum wheels. The Management Second Gyros are a lot much less disturbing to a microgravity atmosphere than thruster firings are, in order that makes a good-quality analysis atmosphere accessible on the station.”

This vital work was accompanied by “command authority” testing, all through the week, because the lab’s newly-activated computer systems had been verified as being able to taking on orientation management from the Russian Orbital Section (ROS). “The gyros had been working completely,” NASA reported on 13 February, “displaying good speeds and regular temperatures as they labored to softly steer the station to offer appropriate alignment of the U.S. and Russian module photo voltaic arrays to the Solar.”

Expedition 1 crewmen (foreground, from left) Sergei Krikalev, Invoice Shepherd and Yuri Gidzenko and the STS-98 astronauts (background, from left) Mark Polansky, Ken Cockrell, Marsha Ivins, Bob Curbeam and Tom Jones, pictured aboard the newly-activated U.S. lab, Future. Photograph Credit score: NASA

Considerably, Jones and Curbeam’s third and ultimate EVA on 14 February was initially touted by NASA because the 100th spacewalk in U.S. historical past—blazing a trail which had begun almost 36 years earlier, in the pioneering excursion of Ed White—and the astronauts had been tasked with putting in a spare S-band communications antenna onto the Z-1 truss, photographing the newly-arrived P-6 photovoltaic arrays, and performing apply efforts for future rescue strategies.

“Beamer and I deliberate to say a number of phrases to honor these spacewalking pioneers earlier than us,” Jones mirrored in Sky Strolling, however this was arrested by a name from Mission Management. Apparently, a recount had been accomplished and concluded that the actual 100th U.S. EVA had occurred throughout their second spacewalk on the 12th. Presenting the be aware by the aft flight deck window to the astronauts, Polansky informed Jones and Curbeam that the message had been conveyed privately, “so we didn’t have egg on our face if someone checks the numbers.”

Twenty years in the past, Atlantis turned the primary member of the House Shuttle fleet to finish a 3rd go to to the Worldwide House Station (ISS). Her legacy on STS-98 was to put in the guts of the U.S. Orbital Section (USOS). Photograph Credit score: NASA

NASA’s official information launch famous that the astronauts “accomplished their third and ultimate deliberate spacewalk,” after virtually 5.5 hours, earlier than “pausing to have fun the mission, which included the 100th spacewalk in United States area historical past.” Jones and Curbeam displayed a placard to commemorate these EVAs, which occurred from Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, in addition to from the shuttle and the Skylab area station, and upon the floor of the Moon. “This achievement, this golden anniversary, so to talk, is a tribute to all of the individuals who have accomplished spacewalks,” Curbeam stated. “And we salute all of you and admire your onerous work and thanks a lot.”

Nonetheless, the 100th-EVA thriller was “one final curveball” to be thrown on the crew, Jones recalled, however though he alluded nothing of significance to the occasion, it has been identified over time that the obvious “miscount” might replicate an EVA which was carried out, however by no means formally acknowledged. One such candidate was the classified STS-27 mission in December 1988, throughout which the crew rendezvoused with their just-deployed spy-satellite payload and performed repairs. Whether or not these “repairs” included a spacewalk has by no means been divulged, but it surely has been provided as one doable rationalization.

STS-116 pilot Invoice Oefelein floats by a cluttered Future lab in December 2006. Photograph Credit score: NASA

With Future having been put in and activated, the STS-98 crew undocked from the area station and returned safely to Earth on 20 February 2001. But their contribution, except for when the 100th U.S. EVA truly came about, is enormously important, for the growth of the ISS very a lot hinged on the success of their mission.

“I attempt to not dwell an excessive amount of on the precise significance for our flight, as a result of it’s going to be overshadowed by the importance of the subsequent flight,” stated Cockrell in his pre-launch interview. “And so they’re all vital and every flight is important to the subsequent flight.” That stated, Cockrell was keenly conscious that getting Future activated was obligatory to ensure that the Mission Management Heart (MCC) on the Johnson House Heart (JSC) in Houston, Texas, to imagine major command and management of the ISS from Russia.

Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore is pictured inside Future throughout his September 2014-March 2015 increment. By this stage, the lab had been in service for greater than a decade. Photograph Credit score: NASA

The lab’s position during the last 20 years has seen it present help for tons of of experiments in life and microgravity sciences and purposes, in addition to serving because the central hub for commanding ISS robotic property and enabling the set up of station {hardware} and the rendezvous and berthing of visiting automobiles. In September 2002, the position of “science officer” was created in response to the elevated emphasis upon analysis which Future’s arrival had enabled and the 2005 NASA Authorization Act designated the distinctive facility as a “U.S. Nationwide Laboratory.”

Below the language of the Act, NASA was directed to “enhance the utilization of the ISS by different Federal entities and the personal sector,” within the development of science, know-how, engineering, and arithmetic. And in September 2011, NASA finalized a co-operative settlement with the impartial, non-profit Heart for the Development of Science in House (CASIS) to handle the lab. Because it enters its 21st 12 months of operational service, and with a crew of seven now aboard—together with 4 U.S. Operational Section (USOS) crew members—the long run significance of Future by the 2020s appears safe.

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