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Science & Exploration

N° 10–1996: ESA astronauts to fly on Tethered Satellite System mission

12 February 1996

ESA astronauts Claude Nicollier and Maurizio Cheli will fly as mission specialists on board Space Shuttle Columbia for flight STS-75. The launch is scheduled to take place on 22 February 1996. Lift-off is set for 15:18 hrs EST at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida (21:18 hrs Central European Time).
During the 14 day long mission the modified Tethered Satellite System (TSS) will be redeployed and the US Microgravity Payload (USMP) will be flown for the third time. Landing is scheduled for 7 March 1996 at KSC in Florida.

The TSS project is a joint effort between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA. The 518 kg, 1.6 m diameter satellite will be deployed on the end of a 20.7 km long, 2.54 mm thick, conductive tether to study the electrodynamic effects of moving such a tether through the Earth's magnetic field. The system also houses 12 scientific experiments. ESA's Space Science department has contributed sensors and control electronics for one of them.

The flyaway of the TSS is scheduled for Saturday 24 February at 21:37 hrs CET while retrieval and docking should occur on Monday 26 February at 19:45 hrs CET.

Throughout the mission, additional experiments housed in the orbiter's cargo bay will give scientists access to space for microgravity and fundamental science investigations. The USMP is designed to provide advanced scientific investigations similar to those planned aboard the International Space Station.

ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier, from Switzerland, is at his third Shuttle flight. He was a mission specialist on the STS- 46 mission (31 July-8 August 1992) for the release of ESA's science platform EURECA and the first TSS test flight. Nicollier flew again on 2-13 December 1993 for the Hubble Space Telescope refurbishing mission (STS-61). Nicollier will have key responsibilities during the dynamic phases of tethered deployment and retrieval.

The second ESA astronaut, Maurizio Cheli, from Italy, will make his first flight on the Shuttle as mission specialist for STS-75. Prior to the start of the TSS part of the mission, Cheli will perform the boom extension to position the satellite for release.

Italian Umberto Guidoni is the third European of the seven- strong STS-75 crew. He flies as TSS payload specialist representing Italy's space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).

Andrew Allen (commander), Scott Horowitz (pilot), Franklin Chang-Diaz (payload commander) and Jeffrey Hoffman (mission specialist) are the four NASA astronauts on this mission. In the period 22-29 February a total of 12 astronauts in will be in space: 4 Europeans, 4 Americans and 4 Russians, split between the 7 member crew of mission STS-75 and the 5 member crew on Mir (3 members of the EUROMIR 95 mission that will return to Earth on 29 February, including ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, and the 2 Russian cosmonauts that will have joined Mir on 23 February to replace the EUROMIR 95 crew).

During the mission, the following public video events have been planned:


  • Friday 1 March 1996/ ESA Swiss educational event Claude Nicollier will answer from space the questions of Swiss students gathered at the Ecole Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland, where Nicollier is a professor.
    For further information on the programme please contact:
    Stephane Berthet, Office Federal de l'Education et la Science. Tel. +41 31 322 9967 Fax. + 41 31 322 7854


  • Monday 4 March 1996/ ESA Italian Educational event ESA astronaut Maurizio Cheli and his ASI colleague Umberto Guidoni will speak to students of a Technical High School in Maranello near Modena, Italy, the hometown of Cheli.
    For further information on the programme please contact: Walter Telleri, Provincia di Modena Tel + 39 59 209 212 or 209 213 Fax. + 39 59 209 214


  • Tuesday 5 March 1996/ ESA/ASI News Conference with all crew members

Media representatives can speak to the crew: as of 12:43 hrs CET, 15 minutes will be available for US press at various NASA locations and approximately 14 minutes for the European press in two locations in Italy: ESA/ESRIN in Frascati, near Rome, and ASI/ALTEC in Torino.

Media representatives wishing to attend this conference at ESA/ESRIN in Frascati should contact:

Evelyn Loeffler, ESA/ESRIN
Tel. + 39 6 941 80 950
Fax. + 39 6 941 80 952

Media Representatives wishing to attend this conference at ASI/ALTEC in Torino should contact:

Carla Rosini, ASI
Tel. +39 6 856 74 11
Fax. + 39 6 440 42 12