The servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope(*) began today with an eight-hour spacewalk. One of the telescope's twin solar arrays was successfully rolled-up at the end of the day but the second array, which had one supporting beam that was bowed and twisted, failed to retract. The astronauts will jettison the troublesome right-hand wing and then proceed with replacement of the arrays as normal.
The day's work began when astronauts Story Musgrave and Jeff Hoffman stepped out into the cargo bay at 9h41 pm CST, Saturday (4h41 am CET, Sunday). They immediately set to work replacing two gyroscope assemblies, known as the Rate Sensor Units, two associated electronics boxes, called Electronic Control Units, and eight electrical fuse plugs. The work was completed ahead of schedule, but the astronauts had trouble closing the doors of the compartment housing the gyros and took over an hour to get them shut. The astronauts also prepared equipment for the replacement of the solar arrays.
"The feeling down here is one of great satisfaction for a tremendous job today" said spacecraft communicator Greg Harbaugh in mission control. "We are very proud of the work that you all did and we are very confident in the continued success of the mission. Everything is going great and tomorrow is going to be another great day".
ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier played a vital role during the spacewalk moving the astronauts and their equipment around the cargo bay with the shuttle's robot arm. The Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission features more robot arm operations than any other shuttle flight.
The telescope's left-hand solar array was rolled up successfully at 6h24 am CST (1h24 pm CET). The 11-tonne observatory was rotated 180 degrees on its turntable before commands were sent to retract the second array at 8h23 am CST (3h23 pm CET). The crew stopped the retraction when it appeared the system may have jammed. Mission control instructed the crew to jettison the array, a procedure that they have trained for.
Tomorrow astronauts Kathy Thornton and Tom Akers will make a six-hour spacewalk to jettison the troublesome wing, store the other in the cargo bay, and install two new panels supplied by ESA. The second set of arrays feature thermal shields and a modified thermal compensation system to prevent the flexing that affected the first pair.
The Hubble Space Telescope was plucked from orbit this Saturday by ESA astronaut Claude Nicollier, operating the shuttle's robot arm. The Swiss-born astronaut gripped the 11- tonne observatory with the shuttle's 15-metre long robot arm at 2h34 am CST (9h34 am CET) after a two-day chase through space as the two spacecraft flew over the South Pacific Ocean.
"Endeavour has a firm handshake with Mr. Hubble's telescope" said mission commander Dick Covey. "It's quite a sight".
About half an hour later Nicollier had the telescope berthed on a special turntable in the back of the Shuttle's cargo bay. Later he used the camera at the end of the arm to surveyed the telescope for any damage.
As the shuttle approached the telescope the astronauts first reported that one of the twin solar arrays appeared to be bowed and twisted. ESA officials said the problem was caused by the failure in early 1992 of the tensioning system on one side of the right-hand array. The system is designed to allow the blanket-like array to expand and contract in orbit. That failure placed stress on one of the supporting bi-stem booms resulting in its bent condition.
Endeavour's mission began Thursday 2 December and will end 13 December. A total of five spacewalks are planned to service the telescope.
(*) The Hubble Space Telescope is the product of international cooperation between NASA and ESA