Space Shuttle Atlantis will lift off with three ”new,” more robust engines when it launches from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on mission STS-110 to deliver new experiments to the International Space Station.
The crew of the Atlantis, scheduled to launch April 4, will be the first to fly in a Shuttle with three newly designed Main Engines — called the Block II configuration.
The engines incorporate an improved fuel pump — with no welds and a stronger integral shaft/disk and bearings — making them safer and more reliable, and potentially increasing the number of flights between major overhauls.
The Space Shuttle Projects Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the main engines — the world’s most sophisticated, reusable rocket engine. On this mission, Atlantis will deliver Space Station science experiments managed by NASA’s Biotechnology and Space Product Development programs, both at the Marshall Center.
The Enhanced Gaseous Nitrogen Dewar will make its fourth trip to the Space Station. This low-cost facility enables scientists to grow hundreds of biological crystals at once to study optimum crystal growth conditions and molecular structure of biological substances. On past missions, more than 430 teachers and students have participated in the experiment and sent samples to the Space Station as part of a NASA-sponsored education activity.
For this flight, the dewar will be filled with approximately 300 samples loaded by teachers and students from Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia, as well as samples loaded by scientists at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions. In May, the Space Shuttle Endeavour will return the samples to Earth, where scientists can study the crystals’ structures to learn about the biochemistry of animals and plants. This experiment is sponsored by NASA’s Biotechnolgy Program at the Marshall Center.
Two experiments sponsored by NASA’s Space Product Development Program at the Marshall Center are making their second trips to the orbiting laboratory. These experiments are sponsored by two of NASA’s 17 Commercial Space Centers, which are located across the country and designed to help companies carry out space research.
The Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus will study bacterial fermentation that could improve the production of antibiotics for treating cancer. This experiment is sponsored by BioServe Space Technologies in Boulder, Colo. — a NASA Commercial Space Center working with Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute in Wallingford, Conn.
The Commercial Protein Crystal Growth-High Density experiment will grow crystals from more than a thousand different biological samples. This experiment is sponsored by the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. More than 50 major industrial companies work with this Commercial Space Center to study how biological crystals can be grown and then used to design new pharmaceutical products. Both these biological crystal samples and the antibiotic samples will be returned in May on Endeavour.
Also going up on STS-110 will be the first samples to be processed in the Zeolite Crystal Growth Furnace, which was delivered on an earlier flight and is also sponsored by a Commercial Space Center — the Center for Advanced Microgravity Materials Processing at Northeastern University in Boston. Zeolites are the backbone of the chemical processing industry, and virtually all the world’s gasoline is produced or upgraded using zeolites. The petroleum industry is interested in growing improved zeolites in space to reduce chemical processing costs. The first set of samples will be returned to Earth in May, and another set will be delivered for processing inside the furnace, which will remain on the Station.
Several experiments and samples will come back on Atlantis in April. These include plants, biological crystals and cell cultures. All are sponsored by NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research in Washington, D.C.
All science operations on the Space Station are planned and carried out with the help of the Payload Operations Center at Marshall. While Atlantis is docked with the Station, controllers in the operations center will assist with transferring new STS-110 experiments from the Shuttle to the Space Station, and will manage science operations, as well — ensuring that the experiments are installed, checked out and are working.
Staffed around the clock by three shifts of six to 19 flight controllers, this science command and control center links Earth-bound researchers with their experiments in obit. This team of controllers is like a virtual ” fourth crewmember” devoted to making Space Station science happen.
March 19 marks the one-year anniversary of around-the-clock science operations support by the Payload Operations Center.
“This date is a major milestone for us,” said Jan Davis, director of Flight Projects at the Marshall Center. “Before the International Space Station gave us a permanent world-class laboratory for doing important scientific research, NASA’s longest Space Shuttle scientific mission in space was two weeks. We’re proud of what we have accomplished for NASA and for science.”
Marshall Space Flight Center Roles in the STS-110 Mission:
* 1st Shuttle flight with three, new Block II Main Engines;
* Shuttle delivers four new experiments to the International Space Station; * Shuttle returns samples from experiments;
* Payload Operations Center assists with transferring new STS-110 experiments from the Shuttle to the Space Station and manages science operations to get the) experiments installed, checked out, and working. The Center also oversees the transfer of the returning samples.
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