|Launch:||August 2,1991, 11:01:59 a.m. EDT.|
|Landing:||August 11, 1991, 8:23:25 a.m. EDT, Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, Fla|
|Duration:||8 days, 21 hours, 21 minutes, 25 seconds.|
|Orbit altitude:||174 nautical miles (322 km)|
|Orbit inclination:||28.45 degrees|
|Distance traveled:||3,700,400 miles (5,955,217 km)|
- John E. Blaha (flew on STS-29, STS-33, STS-43, STS-58 & Mir NASA-2), Commander
- Michael A. Baker (flew on STS-43, STS-52, STS-68 & STS-81), Pilot
- Shannon W. Lucid (flew on STS-51-G, STS-34, STS-43, STS-58 & Mir NASA-1), Mission Specialist 1
- James C. Adamson (flew on STS-28 & STS-43), Mission Specialist2
- G. David Low (flew on STS-32, STS-43 & STS-57), Mission Specialist 3
- Orbiter landing with payload: 89,239 kg
- Payload: 21,067 kg
- Perigee: 301 km
- Apogee: 306 km
- Inclination: 28.5°
- Period: 90.6 min
The launch took place on August 2, 1991, 11:01:59 a.m. EDT. Launch was originally set for July 23 but was moved to July 24 to allow time to replace a faulty integrated electronics assembly that controls orbiter/external tank separation. Mission postponed again about five hours before liftoff on July 24 due to a faulty main engine controller on number three main engine. Controller replaced and retested; launch reset for August 1. Liftoff set for 11:01 a.m. delayed due to cabin pressure vent valve reading and postponed at 12:28 p.m. due to unacceptable return-to-launch site weather conditions. Launch reset for August 2. Launch weight: 259,374 lb (117,650 kg).
Primary payload, Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-5 (TDRS-5) attached to an inertial Upper Stage (I US), deployed about six hours into flight, and IUS propelled satellite into geosynchronous orbit; TDRS-5 becomes fourth member of orbiting TDRS cluster. Secondary payloads were Space Station Heat Pipe Advanced Radiator Element II (SHARE II); Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultra-Violet (SSBUV) instrument; Tank Pressure Control Equipment (TPCE) and Optical Communications Through Windows (OCTW). Other experiments included Auroral Photography Experiment (APE-B) Protein Crystal Growth Ill (PCG Ill); Bioserve / Instrumentation Technology Associates Materials Dispersion Apparatus (BIMDA); Investigations Into Polymer Membrane Processing (IPMP); Space Acceleration Measurement System (SAMS); Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE); Ultraviolet Plume imager (UVPI); and the Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) experiment.
TDRS E, which became TDRS-5 on orbit, was successfully boosted to geosynchronous orbit at more than 22,000 miles (35,400 km) above Earth by two firings of the Inertial Upper Stage (IUS) booster, the last of which occurred approximately 12½ hours into the mission. TDRS then deployed its antennas and solar panels, and separation from the IUS took place less than 45 minutes later.
The TDRS network of satellites provides the vital communication link between Earth and low-orbiting spacecraft such as the Space Shuttle. Until the STS-43 deployment, there were three TDRS spacecraft on orbit above the equator: two were in the west position over the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Hawaii. TDRS-4 is in the east position over the northeast corner of Brazil. TDRS-B was lost in the Challenger accident in 1986. After STS-43, the two satellites in the west became on-orbit spares; TDRS-5, after activation, checkout and calibration, officially became the primary provider of services in the west location on October 7, 1991. It is stationed at 175 degrees west longitude.
Previously, orbiting spacecraft could communicate with Earth only when in sight of a ground tracking station — about 15 percent of each orbit. The TDRS network allows communication from 85 to 100 percent of an orbit, depending on the spacecraft's altitude.
The crew was kept busy with the operation of varied experiments during the nine-day flight. The Space Station Heat Pipe Advanced Radiator Element II (SHARE-II) experiment tested a natural cooling process for transferring thermal energy that could serve as a cooling system for Space Station Freedom. The Solid Surface Combustion Experiment provided some answers about how fire behaves in microgravity. The crew also activated other previously flown materials science experiments and participated in medical experiments in support of long-duration flights. One test showed that optical fibers could provide video and audio links between the flight deck and the payload bay.
Crew members in space and flight controllers on the ground demonstrated their ingenuity when they adapted a camera part to replace one that had not been packed for the mission.
The crew experienced some minor problems, none of them critical to the safety or success of the mission. A cooling system for Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) 2 failed to activate during an on-orbit test. APU 2 is one of three redundant systems which provide hydraulic pressurization to orbiter steering systems during entry and landing. APU 2 was still available for use in landing.
Landing: August 11, 1991, 8:23:25 a.m. EDT, Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Rollout distance: 9,890 feet. Rollout time: 60 seconds. First landing scheduled at KSC since 61-C in January 1986 (which was diverted to Edwards). Landing weight: 196,088 lb (88,944 kg).
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