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Two Space Shuttles Lost in Flight
The U.S. space shuttle Columbia broke up 200,000 feet over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, as it descended from orbit into the atmosphere toward a landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seven astronauts aboard the shuttle were lost in the disaster. Columbia story >
Seven astronauts were aboard shuttle Challenger when it exploded during liftoff on January 28, 1986. School teacher Christa McAuliffe and six other astronauts onboard were killed when a solid-fuel booster rocket leak led to a massive liquid-fuel tank explosion during lift off from a Cape Canaveral launch pad. Challenger story >
Next Space Shuttle
While interplanetary probes are our eyes and ears Out There in deep space, humans also will continue to travel in space near Earth, especially those living and working on the new International Space Station. To carry people up to the station and back down to Earth, NASA wants to fly the existing space shuttles for fifteen more years.
Meanwhile, a new commercially-developed human transport may be ready for use by the year 2010. Eventually, it would replace the old shuttle fleet after it proves it's reliable enough for NASA to assign payloads to it.
Tune In A Spacewalk
EVA is NASA shorthand for "extra vehicular activity." That is, a spacewalk.
During spacewalks, shuttle astronauts use UHF radio transceivers to communicate with their colleagues inside the shuttle cabin. The astronauts also sometimes use their UHF radios to talk with ground controllers during launch or landing.
If you happen to be under their flight path during such rare instances, go to a high spot outdoors and tune your police radio scanning receiver to 259.7 or 296.8 or 279.0 MHz. Here are the frequency allocations:
259.7 spacesuit-to-shuttleLaunch or landing communication
296.8 shuttle-to-ground primary uhfNASA frequencies >
259.7 shuttle-to-ground backup uhf
SAREX is the Shuttle Amateur Radio EXperiment
Amateur Radio on the International Space Station
SAREX stands for Shuttle Amateur Radio EXperiment, a ham radio communications payload. SAREX is an amateur radio station aboard a shuttle. Such ham radio gear is used for educational contacts with school students and for recreational chats with hams on the ground.
For instance, SAREX was aboard shuttle flight STS-95 in October 1998 when 77-year-old space pioneer and U.S. Senator John Glenn returned to space. Two licensed amateur radio operators -- U.S. astronaut Scott Parazynski, whose callsign is KC5RSY, and European Space Agency astronaut Pedro Duque of Spain, whose callsign is KC5RGG -- were among the international crew aboard STS-95.
Glenn, then a four-term U.S. senator from Ohio, flew to orbit for his first time since 1962. Back in 1962, he had been known as the "man in a can" when he squeezed into the Friendship 7 Project Mercury capsule for a 4 hour 55 minute flight to become the first American to orbit Earth.
ARISS. Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is a permanent ham station aboard the ISS. As with SAREX, the gear is used for educational contacts with school students and for recreational chats with hams on the ground during rest periods.
With the help of amateur radio clubs and individual operators, space station astronauts have been talking directly with large groups of the general public, showing teachers, students, parents and communities how ham radio excites kids about science, technology, and learning.
SAREX and ARISS are sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ARISS info >
The Soviet Space Shuttle Buran
The USSR space shuttle Buran flew unmanned on its maiden voyage November 15, 1988. The then-new Energia rocket ferried the new shuttle successfully to two orbits and a picture-perfect automated landing. Buran means snowstorm in Russian. It only ever flew once and that time it carried no pilots.
At that time, the Soviet's Energia rocket was the world's most powerful. Weighing 4.4 million-lbs., it developed 6.6 million lbs. of thrust and could carry 220,000 lbs. to orbit. That's 10 tons more than the U.S. Saturn 5 which had sent men to the Moon in 1969-72 and lofted the American space station Skylab in 1973. The U.S. abandoned Saturn 5 in 1973. Carrying 110 tons to orbit, Energia tripled the lifting ability of the U.S. space shuttle. Energia could lift payloads five times heavier than payloads carried by Proton, the Soviet's second most powerful rocket at the time. Buran info >
The Other Spaceship Enterprise
Shuttle Enterprise was a test craft named after the starship Enterprise in the popular TV program Star Trek.
The prototype shuttle Enterprise never went to space. It had no engines. The 130-ton ship only flew bolted to the back of a Boeing 747 jet. The airplane would drop Enterprise for glide tests.
Astronauts Fred Haise and Charles Fullerton were at the controls for the first flight in August 1977. Five tests were made over two years. Haise and Fullerton piloted one, three and five. Joe Engle and Richard Truly piloted two and four, then flew a real shuttle – Columbia – on the second actual spaceflight.
Prototype shuttle Enterprise was called OV-101 when its construction started in 1974, but 100,000 Star Trek TV fans wrote in, convincing President Gerald Ford to name it Enterprise in 1976. NASA didn't like the name, wanting to call the shuttle Constitution.
The Smithsonian Institution annex to the popular National Air and Space Museum at Virginia's Dulles International Airport houses big aviation artifacts such as the prototype space shuttle Enterprise. It also has a supersonic Concorde jetliner donated by France. NASA history >
- OV-099 was a structure-test orbiter, which became Challenger, the shuttle which exploded in 1986.
- OV-102, to be named Columbia, became the first shuttle to fly in space.
- OV-103 became Discovery.
- OV-104 became Atlantis.
- OV-105 was the orbiter built to replace Challenger and named Endeavour.
How the Shuttles Got Their Names
NASA named its space shuttles after famous exploration sailing ships:
- Columbia (OV-102) was named after a sailing frigate launched in 1836. It was one of the first Navy ships to circumnavigate the globe. The name also was used for the Apollo 11 command module that carried Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin and Michael Collins on the first lunar landing flight in 1969.
- Challenger (OV-099) was named after a Navy ship, which from 1872 to 1876 made a prolonged exploration of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The name also was used for the Apollo 17 lunar excursion module (LEM).
- Discovery (OV-103) was named after two ships — one in which Henry Hudson in 1610-11 attempted to search for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and instead discovered Hudson Bay and another in which Capt. Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands and explored southern Alaska and western Canada.
- Atlantis (OV-104) was named after a two-masted ketch operated for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute from 1930 to 1966. That sailboat traveled more than half a million miles in ocean research.
- Endeavour (OV-105) was named after the first ship commanded by 18th century British explorer James Cook. On its maiden voyage in 1788, Cook sailed into the South Pacific and around Tahiti to observe the passage of the planet Venus between the Earth and the Sun. During another leg of the journey, Cook discovered New Zealand, surveyed Australia and navigated the Great Barrier Reef. NASA history >
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