Space U-Haul Atlantis on its way.
February 8, 2001 8:06 AM   Subscribe

Space U-Haul Atlantis on its way. Atlantis is climbing orbit to reach Alpha carrying with it the Destiny module for Space Station Freedom. The module only has 2 inches of clearance from the shuttle itself and will take one hell of a can opener to get it out.
posted by Brilliantcrank (9 comments total)
Seems to me there was a similar situation with Hubble - it was as big as a Shuttle-carried object could be.

Interesting way to solve the weight problem. For a while they were talking about using half-size modules, so they could send them up intact and not overload the Shuttle.

More photos please!

posted by Mars Saxman at 10:30 AM on February 8, 2001

NASA Spaceflight has a video showing exactly how the Destiny module will be added.
posted by iceberg273 at 11:37 AM on February 8, 2001

NASA Spaceflight has a video showing exactly how the Destiny module will be added.

I just watched this video (which is cool, BTW), but I found it odd that once the robot arm pulls it out of the cargo bay, it flips it around. I'm sure there's a logical reason why this module wasn't placed into the cargo bay the right way so that the arm doesn't have to flip it. Does anyone know why this module was in backwards?
posted by Sal Amander at 12:27 PM on February 8, 2001

Destiny maxes out the diameter of the shuttle bay, but it's only half as long as Hubble. Hubble was big, but it wasn't the heaviest load ever carried. It's slightly lighter as a payload than the last mission, which carried up the P6 solar array.

Ever since we partnered with the Russians, we had to choose an orbital inclination of 51 degrees, the same as Mir. The reason? So they can reach it easily from Baikonur, which is much farther north than Florida. This severely limits the load the Shuttle can carry, compared with a more typical equatorial orbit.

The Chandra X-Ray telescope was the largest & heaviest payload, mainly due to the Inertial Upper Stage (a secondary booster).

Mars, some good pre-launch photos of Destiny and other recent Shuttle operations.
posted by dhartung at 12:28 PM on February 8, 2001

Sal, that was asked on, where several NASA employees hang out, and the definitive answer was "payload mass distribution".
posted by dhartung at 12:30 PM on February 8, 2001

Thanks for the info dhartung. I apparently misread the article, thinking they meant the new module had two inches of clearance longitudinally.

Is it easier to send the Shuttle into a more inclined orbit than it would be for a Russian launch to take a less inclined orbit, or was that choice made for political reasons?

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:43 PM on February 8, 2001

Yeah, to elaborate... according to something I saw on the NASA streaming feed yesterday before the launch, the reason why the Destiny is "upside down" in the cargo bay of the shuttle is that they needed some way to securely support it while it was in the cargo bay during the launch, and rather than add the extra weight of an extra support beam, they chose to use the same beam as the one they'll be using to support future solar panels. Since they needed to attach it to the interior of the Shuttle, it had to go on the bottom, even though it will eventually be on the top.
posted by crunchland at 2:18 PM on February 8, 2001

Thanks to all for the detailed explanation!
posted by Sal Amander at 3:43 PM on February 8, 2001

Mars, in a word, yes. Briefly, the closer you are to the equator, the greater the diameter of your own sea-level orbit, thus the greater speed as the Earth turns, thus the greater energy boost on an Eastbound launch. Baikonur is so far north that it gets a smaller rotational energy boost on launch, and would require more energy to match a more equatorial orbit.

Also, the Shuttle was designed with military input, and the USAF had a very strong desire for a vehicle with what's called high cross-range, i.e. able to come in for a landing with a lot of flexibility, especially N/S. They didn't want a Cold War DoD mission accidentally coming down in, say, China. The Russian Soyuz technology, by contrast, has very little cross-range capability: if they re-enter at the wrong time, speed, or attitude, they have little choice but to hang on for the ride. So the Shuttle has flexibility that Soyuz does not.

This truly is ironic: the very capability added for Cold War suspicion turned out to be essential for post-Cold-War cooperation.

(There's much more deep irony about the design process, but I won't get into that.)
posted by dhartung at 8:00 PM on February 8, 2001

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