ESA astronauts Claude Nicollier and Maurizio Cheli have been selected by NASA to fly as mission specialists on board Space Shuttle Columbia for flight STS-75 in early 1996, which will see the second deployment of the Tethered Satellite System (TSS) and the third flight of scientific investigations using the US Microgravity Payload (USMP) complement. The mission is scheduled to last 13 days.
The TSS project is a joint NASA/ASI (Italian Space Agency) effort. On STS-75, the five-foot diameter (1.6 metre) Italia built satellite is scheduled to be deployed on the end of a 1 mile long (20 kilometre) conductive tether to study the electrodynamic effects of moving such a tether through the Earth's magnetic field. The experiment will also test techniques for managing the tethered spacecraft at great distances.
Throughout the 13-day flight, additional experiments housed in the orbiter's payload bay will give scientists access to s for microgravity and fundamental science investigations. The USMP is designed to provide the foundation for advanced scientific investigations similar to those planned aboard the International Space Station.
Claude Nicollier, who is Swiss, was selected by ESA in 1978 as one of three European payload specialists to train for the SPACELAB-1 mission. He was a mission specialist on STS- 46 (31 July-8 August 1992), during which the crew members deployed ESA's retrievable science platform (EURECA) and conducted the first TSS test flight. A few months after his return from this mission Claude Nicollier was selected as mission specialist for STS-61 (2-13 December 1993). He contributed considerably to the complete success of the Hubble Space Telescope repair and refurbishment mission and in particular the replacement of the ESA-provided solar arrays. Maurizio Cheli, an Italian, was selected by ESA in May 1992 along with five other young candidates to expand the corps of ESA astronauts. He has been in Houston since mid-1992 and has qualified as mission specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center there. STS-75 will be his first Shuttle flight. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Andrew M. Allen will command Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-75 mission.
Joining Allen are Air Force Major Scott J. Horowitz, pilot; payload commander Franklin R. Chang-Diaz, Ph. D; Italian Space Agency (ASI) TSS payload specialist Umberto Guidoni, Ph.D; mission specialist Jeffrey A. Hoffman, Ph.D; and European Space Agency mission specialists Claude Nicollier from Switzerland and Maurizio Cheli from Italy. Chang-Diaz and Guidoni were assigned to the crew in August and October 1994 respectively. Four of the seven crew members flew on STS-46 in July/August 1992 -- the first TSS mission during which the satellite was deployed to a distance of about 900 feet (274 metres) from the Shuttle.